@NHSCB’s social media and comment moderation policy – some thoughts

As you may have seen the NHS Commissioning Board (NCB) has published its Social media and comment moderation policy

The NCB, as new official leader of the NHS from October 2012, has set itself the goal of being an open and transparent organisation, setting the tone for the rest of the NHS on publishing data and risk registers, and answering the public’s questions (see Roz Davies blog post as one example). So does the policy stand up to that ideal?

Pre-moderation of comments

Why is it a pre-moderation policy? As the BBC clearly sets out in its editorial guidelines post-moderation and reactive moderation were two of the more open and transparent options available to the NCB.

By not publishing any comments before moderation the NCB risks slowing the flow of discussion.

Does it show that in the soft under belly of the NCB there remains a worry that people might say what they think in unkind terms? Do they not trust other commenters to correct others mistakes or rants? Or it is just that they don’t think they’ve the manpower or hours to skim the comments and moderate any that break the rules? If it’s the last one, fair enough… just.

Additional delays

Why delay comments being published in order to answer them as this section alludes to: “Sometimes there is a delay in publishing whilst we seek information from various sources to be included in our response to questions.” let the discussion flow don’t stall it. Then go back with answers when you have them.

Stay on topic

Posting ‘on topic’ (bullet point one in the approval checklist) is subjective.

I think that some constant complainers about one thing or another – you know the type, the people you see on every comment stream who quickly turn a point of view towards the chip on their shoulder, that these people will not get their comments published and therefore will get ever angrier bringing more pain to the comms team instead of less. Let them have their off-topic moment.

Sharing is caring

What is this… “don’t reveal personal details, such as private addresses, phone numbers, email addresses or other online contact details”?!

Clear enough on the personal details part but what about the online contact details? So, no Twitter handle, no email address, no blog? How are people going to network via the comments and build up communities of interest and knowledge?

A lot of sites ask you to sign in to a service before commenting. Why haven’t the NCB followed up their desire to use social media well with a social commenting function?

NB: It is required to give the NCB an email address to be able to post a comment.

It ain’t all bad…

I thought the following section was a stroke of genius:

“NHS CBA Staff Tweeting

Some NHS CBA staff tweet under their own names or pseudonyms. Despite their professional affiliation with the NHS CBA, their tweets do not represent the official position of the Board, and should be considered the product of each individual as a private citizen.”

Great idea, very clear and a positive step allowing staff to maintain or start a Twitter account (and hopefully other social media accounts) will at the NCB. NHS Trusts take note.


Overall this isn’t a bad policy, and the fact they have one is super. It sounds to me that they haven’t completely shaken off the worries about what the public could say in the comments. Perhaps in six months the policy will be updated based on their experiences. Let’s hope so.