In the UK there are now 45 million social media users; this equates to 67% of the entire population. Every day these users spend an average of one hour 50 minutes scrolling through social media sites – this figure spans all ages and locations.

Facebook remains the dominant player by membership in the UK, with 78% of all internet users registered with the platform.

“There is no doubt it can also be a force for good”

The take-home message from the above statistics? As many as 40 million people – 71% of adults in the UK – can be reached via this platform.

While social media has come in for a good deal of criticism over the past couple of years for its perceived negative influences on society, there is no doubt it can also be a force for good.

A recent news story by Nursing Times therefore made for particularly welcome reading. The story reported that nursing staff on a Stoke-on-Trent pilot project were using Facebook to promote breast screening services. The initiative saw uptake in first attendances increase by 12.9%.

On the back of this success, other nurses across the country are being supported to use the same techniques to help tackle a decline in uptake nationally and to encourage women to attend potentially life-saving routine breast examinations.

About 350 general practice staff have now been trained as ‘digital health champions’ as part of NHS Digital’s Widening Digital Participation programme. The participants are shown how they can use technology to improve health and promote practice services.

Nicola Gill, director of the WDP programme at NHS Digital, said: “Going to where people go every day, in this case a Facebook community group, allows us to connect and engage with people in a way that’s familiar and convenient for them.

“Pioneering models of health prevention and management like this are making a real difference in improving outcomes for excluded communities.”

The nursing profession is no stranger to innovation. Nurses are on the front line when it comes to harnessing the latest resources to drive change and deliver better care – and technology is no exception.

Last week the Nursing Times Awards 2019 celebrated the profession’s inspiring achievements. The award for the Technology and Data in Nursing category went to a digital end-of-life-care project across the Blackpool area.

Trinity Hospice had a growing number of patients but a finite team of specialist nurses to care for them. With local partners it introduced an IT infrastructure – funded by NHS England’s vanguard programme – to connect care homes, enabling it to offer weekly virtual clinics.

Over a seven-month period, 501 hours of clinical time and over £12,000 was saved, and an 88% increase in efficiency achieved. Most importantly, patient feedback on the new way of working was positive and the project enabled closer collaboration between partner organisations.

Within the next few weeks we will be launching Nursing Times Innovations – an online search engine for nurses wanting to read about nurse-led service developments.

This new section of our website is designed to help you find out about pioneering work being carried out across the country. It includes NT Award-winning projects and innovations articles published by Nursing Times over the past three years.

You can search for initiatives in your specialty or by the nature of the work – allowing you to learn from others’ experiences – and challenges – and be inspired to change your own practice or service.

“Social media, technological advances and digital solutions can help”

Innovations will include innovations across the spectrum of nursing practice – and initiatives in technology will be well represented.

Technology alone will offer no universal panacea. But a nursing profession struggling with well-publicised workforce shortages to deliver care in an increasingly complex and challenging healthcare climate needs all the support it can get.

Nurses deserve to have access to resources that can save them time, support their partnership working and extend their social reach. Quite simply – social media, technological advances and digital solutions can help.

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