Are we using social media enough to enhance alcohol working?

7 Nov

In this guest post Richard Gratton, a specialist substance misuse nurse for Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (Derbyshire, UK) writes about the missed social media opportunities for the field. Richard also writes his own blog

In recent years, the use of social media by professionals has increased exponentially, and health organisations are no exception. Whilst there should be some caution in terms of the type of information and comment that is broadcast, on the whole it has had a positive impact on the way we provide healthcare.Twitter

Social media has for instance led to improvements in communication between staff and patients, and enhanced the dissemination of information, learning or messages. In addition it has greatly helped networking between staff in ways that were previously not possible.

I currently work as service lead for the Hospital Alcohol and Drug Liaison Team at Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (Derbyshire, UK). The team consists of 2 nurses providing a range of specialist interventions where substance misuse is a feature of patient’s lifestyle. It also plays a vital role in improving the knowledge and skills of the hospital workforce (such as in IBA) and enhancing the effectiveness of the local treatment system.

Around 5 years ago, the majority of hospitals in the UK did not employ substance misuse workers; only a handful of services existed, which to some extent caused isolated working and pockets of good practice. It is now thought that more than 65% of hospitals employ at least one worker, with growing evidence of the impact of these roles.  Further benefits to patient care and increased opportunities to engage with people on substance misuse issues are also apparent.

For hospital-based substance misuse services sharing of good practice includes a forum on the Alcohol Learning Centre and a Liaison Network, but missed opportunities for more through social media. The same can probably be said for the IBA agenda.

In my experience social media should be considered by all those working in the substance misuse field or delivering health interventions like IBA for the following reasons:


  • ’Tweeting’ can be an excellent way of commenting on good practice, sharing innovations in your area of work, and providing links to useful articles and comment.
  • Using hashtags to bookmark discussions allows for debate amongst like-minded people in regard to contemporary issues: #wenurses is an excellent example of this, providing a weekly platform to debate contemporary issues. An #alcoholiba tag is sometimes used too.


  • Writing a regular blog on a variety of issues can be a great method of sharing good practice and encouraging others to improve their knowledge and skills in a particular area.
  • Many blogs will welcome ‘guest posts’ such as the one you are reading now!


  • What was traditionally a truly ‘social’ media has increasingly become a platform for all kinds of professional information, events and information sharing

Whilst social media does not provide a single answer, it can be a crucial tool to enhance our practice and foster healthy debate about substance misuse work. So whether it’s exploring specialists’ role in the provision of IBA, or issues such as the treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, social media is an opportunity to highlight the good work that we do, enhance knowledge, improve the consistency of approaches and share learning and innovative practice.

Greater use of social media has the potential to bring with it significant benefits to our practice and the care that we provide to patients.

See here for a recent Guardian piece on Five powerful ways to increase your social impact with social media.

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