Observations Medicine and the Media

Tweets from the emergency department

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f54 (Published 09 January 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f54
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}margaretmccartney.com

A recent Twitter campaign about the appropriate use of NHS services didn’t consider potential harms, writes Margaret McCartney

In the second week of December several NHS services in England joined a national “tweetathon” to “provide anonymised, real time accounts of the range of conditions and reasons people visit the hospital’s A+E [accident and emergency department].” Why? “Because thousands of local people use urgent and emergency NHS services for all types of illnesses and injury, even if it is not the most suitable place to treat their needs.” The tweets were identified on Twitter by the hashtag #tweetwell.

The clinical director of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Steve Bush, said that this was the first time that a “national social media approach has been used to educate local people about using the Emergency Department appropriately. It is really important that people use alternatives so that we can ensure we use our resources to support those that are seriously ill or injured.”1

Many NHS hospitals decided to send live tweets about events in emergency and urgent care venues. But some supposedly preventive advice tweets approached parody, such as, “Avoid colds this winter by wrapping up warm,” and, “Left your Xmas preparations to the last minute? Don’t panic! Slips, trips and falls are more likely to …

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