@NHS Twitter Takeover

The @NHS twitter account was launched in October 2016, and each week since then it has been curated by different people working for or being treated by the NHS. There have been some really interesting takeovers over the past 2 years and it really highlights the huge variety of individuals working within and being treated by this wonderful organisation.

Screenshot of RM magazine article

Screenshot of an upcoming writeup in our trust’s magazine

I was really lucky to have been given the opportunity to take the reins from 27th-31st August. I didn’t go seeking this out actively, I got a Twitter direct message out of the blue from one of the NHS social media admins asking if I would be interested. At first I asked if I could share the week with other librarians, and suggested some Twitter active clinical librarians who might be more suitable – I didn’t feel I had a particularly exciting job to share with the wider public! I was told, however, that only single-person takeovers were allowed, except under special circumstances. They also didn’t seem keen on approaching any other librarians. After mulling it over, and discussing it with my manager and my hospital’s marketing and communications team, I decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up, and accepted.

The exact date of my Twitter takeover was moved around a bit which actually worked in my favour as I had more time to prepare. I had a preparatory phonecall with a member of the @NHS social media admin team and a representative from my trust’s comms team, which addressed some of my concerns. They provided a helpful ‘content plan’ template to help me theme each of my days in charge of the account and prepare some ideas in advance.

Before the takeover, I was given some guidelines (mainly: no politics, nothing offensive). Then, on the Sunday evening before the takeover, I was texted the login details and just left to it! I had very little interaction with any admin staff and was largely left to it. I’m sure they would have stepped in if I’d posted anything outrageous, however.

My themes were as follows:

  • Monday: Bank holiday, minimal tweeting
  • Tuesday: Introduction to health libraries; teaching and training
  • Wednesday: Open Access
  • Thursday: Healthcare information for patients and the public
  • Friday: Librarianship as a career, and being BME in the NHS

I also interviewed five lovely and incredibly helpful librarians from across the country, to give an insight into the varied roles and responsibilities that we have. They were Emma Halford (Princess Alexandra Hospital), Becca Howes (QAH library, Portsmouth), Laura Wilkes (West Suffolk), Tom Roper (Brighton and Sussex), and Louise Hull (University Hospitals Leicester). We agreed 2-3 questions in advance, and set aside a specific half hour in the week for each interview. I tried to vary the questions between each interviewee. As the week went on I improved my Twitter interview technique, introducing the hashtag #NHSLibraries and also checking via direct messages with each user if they were finished answering a question, before moving on. I’m really grateful to the interviewees for volunteering to help, and I feel the interviews added a much more interesting perspective to NHS library work as well as taking the pressure off me somewhat!

Reflecting on the week, I did find it really stressful being a spokesperson for health libraries on such a big platform (35k followers!!) but dealt with this by reaching out to others, like my five amazing interviewees. Other librarians provided helpful tips for content, and helped to amplify the messages by liking, retweeting, and sending supportive messages, which made it a bit less scary. I could see the stats for previous takeovers and was a little disappointed by the relative lack of engagement that my week got, but let’s be honest, libraries are not that exciting! Anyway, hopefully some people are now more aware of the existence of health libraries and how we can help, and of issues such as health literacy and Open Access. The tweets that got the most engagement were those around Open Access (a poll asking if users had ever been prevented from reading research due to a paywall – 98% of 482 respondents said yes!) and around the evaluation of healthcare information. These were both key messages that I wanted to get across, so I’m pleased with that. Also, I just feel incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity.

An archive of tweets from my @NHS Twitter takeover is available here: http://wke.lt/w/s/G1cDi.


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