Havering residents all a-Twitter over health

SPREADING the word on health in the borough has gone digital, as NHS Havering is this week revealed to be among the ‘top tweeters’ in the country.

The Primary Care Trust (PCT) has the most followers of all the London health bodies on the popular website Twitter, and is in the top four PCTs in the country.

Twitter is a social media website that allows users to send and read messages in 140 characters or less.

Celebrity users of the website include Stephen Fry, Russell Brand and Stacey Solomon. Even Barrack Obama is a fan tweeting messages directly from the White House.

NHS Havering currently has had a profile on the site since April last year and now has over 1,400 followers.

The trust uses it not only to help spread health messages to local people, but also to have conversations with residents – answering questions and signposting to services.

One user, Pete Cornish-Barlow, otherwise known as @sourmashmusic said: “I think what NHS Havering are doing is great – it is a good way to get messages out to young people as they’re much more likely to use websites like Twitter and Facebook rather than pick up leaflets in GP waiting rooms.

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“It also allows people to tell the NHS what they think of services and get useful information or find out where they can be treated”.

Using websites like Twitter and Facebook is part of NHS Havering’s communication strategy and is becoming increasingly popular with other NHS organisations as a way to communicate with patients.

Communications Officer Andy Thornley, who has led on social media for the PCT, said: “We find that it’s a great method to talk to patients in an interesting and sometimes fun way. We recently used the website to help spread messages encouraging people to look out for relatives or neighbours who may be vulnerable to the cold. Many of our followers re-tweeted the messages to their own to help spread the message.

“We also use it to listen to what people have to say about health services and so far the feedback we’ve received has been useful.”

He added: “The next step for us is to develop our Facebook page in the same way so we can reach out and have conversations with more people who live in Havering.”

To get on board go to: www.twitter.com/nhs_havering and www.facebook.com/nhshavering