Reflections on being Curator on the NHS Twitter


on being a curator




Reflections on being a curator for NHS Twitter account


Dr Mahmud ran the @NHS twitter account in 2017


To share some of the innovation the practice was doing.

Resulting in

The practice exploring ays in which we can use social media to support our patients.

What is a curator?

NHS England Twitter account has a big following from a lot of varied people including professionals and patients. I was asked to take over the @nhs twitter account for a week and share my working week in January 2017.

We do a lot of work around innovation and I was keen to share some of that on twitter.

NHS Twitter

How was it?

It was a little overwhelming. It took a while to understand the NHS Twitter is where people would like to have a window into your life. They want to know what you are planning, doing and thinking. It is different to the way that you would use your own Twitter account. You have to follow guidelines for putting content on social media such as that produced by the Royal College of Gps, but that wasn’t too onerous.

I don’t think that the tweets are an accurate reflection of the workload in general practice. Eg on Monday I worked from 0800 – 2000, a telephone triage and Skype clinic lasting 4 hours and a normal clinic lasting 3.5 hours. Also, 2 home visits as well as administrative duties including prescriptions, reviewing blood test results, letters and making referrals. I didn’t have lunch until around 3 pm which I had at my desk. I didn’t see the children when I got home at 2100 when I carried on with administrative duties.

It was hard to message on the NHS Twitter account. I couldn’t share any patient information which could lead to them being identified. I was keen to share the positive aspects of general practice, rather than the challenges which are well documented. With hindsight, I could have just done very short tweets to update followers as they appeared to be interested.

I was pretty apprehensive initially, given the size of the audience and worried about the reaction. There were a lot of negative media comments about GPs on the day before I became a curator. However, NHS Twitter users have been amazingly supportive and engaging. As a result, I grew in confidence towards the end of the week. Learnt lots from the audience. I now will have regular breaks, improve my diet and do the Couch to 5K.


I tried asking questions of large organisations, but they didn’t reply, which was a shame.  Wish I had shared more everyday questions, eg how to make a 2 year old sleep through the night and remove the said 2 year old’s stains from a fabric sofa.

The biggest challenge in general practice is related to workforce and the biggest solution is education and training. I am not sure that this message came across clearly enough. I appreciate that things that I feel are important were not necessarily shared by the NHS Twitter audience.

Engagement improved when I shared a little more of myself. Photos and videos and realise that they don’t have to be perfect and got more involved when ‘interviewing’ people.

#Ithinkioverdidhastags #noteveyoneunderstandsmyhumour


Overall I think having the opportunity to be a curator on NHS Twitter for a week, was an amazing experience. I have learnt a great deal and feel much more confident in using social media at the practice and on my own account. We will make sure we use it a few times a day and respond to any questions. This can be used to share information both ways between patients and the practice and help patients support other patients, in line with the practice ethos of patient empowerment.

I would like to thank NHS England for their support during the week, particularly Ben from NHS England

Top tips for using Twitter in NHS Twitter account

  1. Build a relationship

    Share a bit about you as a person and some small interesting things. You’ll be surprised at how much interest that gets. One of the biggest reactions I got was sharing the fact that Easter eggs were available at the local supermarket in late January.

  2. Content

    Post regularly but try to link themes. Eg if you want to share an event that you are going to, you can share the fact that you plan to go, what happens when you get there and your thoughts now that you have been.

  3. Images

    Images and videos work really well.

  4. Engagement

    Don’t worry too much if you @mention someone and they don’t respond.

  5. Enjoy it!

    It should be fun. It is ok to use humour.

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