The NHS as a social network

Facilitating workshops and masterclasses to help the NHS harness social networking tools.

We were invited to co-facilitate a masterclass entitled: “The powers and the perils of using Social Networking tools in the NHS” held on 15th May 2008 at the British Library in London by the NHS Faculty of Health Informatics. The masterclass provided participants with an opportunity to learn about social networking tools and case studies of their use within the NHS. Discussion focussed on the potential for wider adoption and how to minimise any associated risks.

Why not use a wiki?

Bruce Elliott, Health Informatics Development Programme Manager and chief architect behind the Faculty masterclasses invited Rowan to write up the emerging issues highlighted during the discussion at the masterclass into a report. Rowan suggested that the report production could be done collaboratively using one of the many freely available wiki tools on the web. Bruce was sold on the idea and with help from colleague and agent provocateur Helen Nichol, the NHS social networking wiki emerged on Wetpaint.

The power of co-production

Within a few days most of the masterclass participants were using the wiki to read about and contribute ideas building on the issues emerging out of the workshop. After a few weeks Rowan extracted the collective input and used it to produce the faculty briefing paper “The power and perils of using social networking tools in the NHS.” The briefing paper provide some practical hints and tips for anyone in health and social care who is using or considering using social networking tools. It’s not just the quality of the collectively assemebled content that makes the briefing paper worthy of a read but the fact that it was created using one of the very tools the paper is talking about. Talk about walking the talk!

Faculty background

The NHS Faculty of Health Informatics is a UK wide Community of Practice for anyone working in the NHS, Social Care, Higher Education and the Private Sector who is passionate about using Informatics to improve health and social care. To apply for membership go to You will be prompted to enter your eSpace log-in details or to apply for membership when you click on this link.


  • Rapid availability of discussions from masterclass supported ongoing engagement
  • Innovative use of a wiki tool to support co-production of the report
  • Increased confidence in social networking tools amongst the masterclass delegates
  • Willingness to try new tools and adopt new ways of working
  • Growing desire to take ownership and make technology work for us
  • Clearer understanding of the risks associated with social networking tools and how to overcome them

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