What are MOOCs, and what can they do for an NHS Trust?

MOOCSo if you haven’t heard of MOOCs yet, here we go.

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. Coined in 2008 (yes, 5 years ago) these courses have exploded across the internet over the past two years.

Offering free, interactive access to courses covering thousands of subjects from 100s of universities –  including many of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world – lifelong learning may finally have become truly achievable

The “open” in MOOC really means open. Anyone with an internet connection can enjoy access to a university standard course taught by a leader in the field. I won’t bore you with the details – just Google MOOC or checkout EdX, Coursera or Udacity as a first step into the MOOCy waters.

So what does this mean for GSTT and its staff?

It is clearly recognised that personal and professional development is the responsibility of the employer to encourage and the employer to pursue. The benefits to both, though hard to measure, are undeniable. These benefits can be realised if the Trust chose to support, encourage and enable staff who take advantage of the opportunities provided by MOOCs.

That support takes three very simple actions:

1. Publicise relevant courses through GTi and other internal communications channels

2. Include MOOC participation in personal and professional development (PPD) points calculations

3. Open the IT fearwall so that staff can access the necessary YouTube and Vimeo videos  and communicate with their classmates via Twitter & Facebook in the workplace

There are further benefits to be gained. For instance, staff that are taking the same course could get together to form local study groups and connect with those in other Hospitals, Counties and Countries who already display a shared interest.

On a personal note – I have completed three MOOCs since November last year. One in Data-visualisation and design, one in using R analytic software and one in Data analysis and statistical modelling. I am signed up this year for a course called The maths of philosophy, and yesterday I joined the Coursera course  Introduction to Data Science … which probably says a lot more about me than you wanted to know.

My point across these proposals is the same: by opening up our doors to the wide world of the web we stand to gain far more than we might ever lose. The only thing on the other side of the Trust’s fearwall is opportunity.

Here’s  the bit at the bottom. You can talk to me by leaving a comment on this blog, following me on twitter @brynrwilliams, using the #CoGElections2013 hashtag or connecting with me on LinkedIn uk.linkedin.com/in/brynrwilliams

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Removal of restrictions on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other Social Media and Networking tools


Below is a quote from the Social media guidance for civil servants published one year ago on the 17th of May 2012.

Government should:

  • Communicate with citizens in the places they already are
  • Use social media to consult and engage
  • Use social media to be more transparent and accountable
  • Be part of the conversation with all the benefits that brings
  • Understand that government cannot do everything alone, or in isolation
  • Expect civil servants to adhere to the Civil Service Code (online as well as offline)

In a single stroke, the civil service was freed from the restrictions imposed by IT security blocks which prevented them from using Social Media tools. It was understood – at the highest level – that a public service should not be prevented from communicating with those it serves. This is also true for the NHS, yet the pink screen of restriction is still encountered daily by those of us who choose to click on a You Tube link or respond to an emailed request to follow someone on Twitter.

Not everyone may not agree, but I believe that  the argument over whether or not employees should endure restrictions on the tools available to them to perform their necessary duties has long been won. The time to pull down the fearwalls established to restrict access to Social Media tools has long since passed. The perceived risks of employees abusing their right to communicate freely on the internet are miniscule when put next to the benefits of free and frequent communication with colleagues, patients, experts and public. There are policies and processes in place to sanction inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour by staff. To apply a blanket restriction seems increasingly absurd –  particularly when so many of us carry our own devices which are perfectly capable of accessing the full wealth of the internet.

I believe it is time to correct this historical error, as private industry and (even) central government have done. The Trust can only gain from taking down a wall which protects no one and obstructs all.

Here’s a reminder, you can communicate with me by leaving a comment on this blog, following me on twitter @brynrwilliams, using the #CoGElections2013 hashtag or  connecting with me on LinkedIn uk.linkedin.com/in/brynrwilliams

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For GSTT to set London example of best use of Social Media in healthcare


Hello again. Voting starts this morning for the Guy’s & St Thomas’  Clinical Governor (non-clinical staff).  In these posts I explain a little bit more about what I would  like to see prioritised by the board in the coming months and years.

Things are changing fast in the NHS – even faster than usual. GSTT’s Fit for the Future project, launched on Monday 13th, requires us to work smarter and think leaner. The aim is to secure the Trust for the challenges that are to come from an increasingly competitive market and a rapidly changing age demographic.

The opportunities offered by taking a lead in the (not so) new technologies driving Social Media are huge. Building relationships with the community in ways that have long been talked about but have never really been achievable in the past. Delivering new digital services, responding quickly to problems and getting a much clearer picture of the needs of our patients are all prizes waiting to be taken.

With your support, I intend to deliver this message at the highest level of the Trust. I believe we can be leaders in the field. For all of us who like to boast that we work in the best Trust in London, continuing and expanding our digital profile across the capital and beyond will only strengthen that claim.

If you share this view, or would like to discuss it more, please get in touch through the following routes: leave a comment on this blog, tweet to me on twitter @brynrwilliams, use the #CoGElections2013 hashtag or  connect with me on LinkedIn uk.linkedin.com/in/brynrwilliams

And please if you don’t vote for me – Do vote for someone. The more we participate the louder our voice.

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Training and support for all staff to use Social Media tools


To some, this may seem a strange thing to promote in the workplace. Traditionally, tools like Twitter have been looked on with disdain – as a distraction from work and of no value either to the Trust or the patients we serve. Outside of healthcare, this view has been successfully challenged for years as being out of date and counter-productive. All sorts of industries have adopted a positive approach to Social Media, encouraging and enabling their employees to connect widely and deeply. The benefit to the company is a far better informed workforce and, specifically, staff that are better informed in their own areas of work.

The benefit to the staff is that they are better at what they do, which brings greater job security and job satisfaction This all flows from better engagement with  colleagues both within the workplace and across their professions.

The good news is that the NHS is catching up. NHS England recommends and practices active Social Media engagement. The Department of Health, as a government body, is bound by rules that specify their employees should not be hampered by IT policies from making use of any Social Media tools available to them to connect to their clients – the public.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ is also getting to grips with Social Media. The twitter handle @GSTTnhs is well publicised and at the moment of writing has 2,085 followers, picking up 44 this month (5 today). There is also a new Social Media policy (available from GTi) which sets out the rules for individuals or departments wishing to have their own public identity on the web.

Healthcare is getting connected. I believe that, equally, those that work in  healthcare  need to get connected. If elected I will argue that we need to be actively promoting, encouraging and supporting greater use of Social Media by every employee in the Trust from the CEO down. I’ve placed a link here to Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust who  are already moving in this direction.  Southern Health Social Media Guidance and another link to their Social Media FAQs (very useful resource).

I encourage you to follow the links to see a successful example of a positive trust-wide Social Media promotion strategy.

Don’t forget – election papers will start appearing on Wednesday  15 May and have to be returned by Friday June 7. Vote for who you prefer, but PLEASE VOTE!

Here’s yet another reminder, you can communicate with me by leaving a comment on this blog, following me on twitter @BrynRWilliams, using the  #GSTTCoGNCS13 hashtag or  connecting with me on LinkedIn uk.linkedin.com/in/brynrwilliams

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Free Wi-Fi for patients, family, friends and staff

Reasons for providing Free Wi-Fi:


For patients: Wi-Fi allows inpatients to keep in touch with friends and family, and gives them far more choice in how to spend any periods of recovery. It allows “virtual visiting” by far-flung relatives over applications like Skype. It can even let those who wish to check in at work to keep in touch and update their situation. It also allows outpatients to  spend their time more usefully while waiting for a clinic appointment, hopefully making happier waiting areas. Where specialities are adopting/promoting internet based healthcare applications, it allows them to be used by their patients during visits.

For staff: Increasingly, staff (clinical and non-clinical) are bringing their own devices to work in order to use modern tools that are unavailable on the Trust network. These are colleagues who wish to access services that better help them perform their role. Currently,  they must use their own resources to do this. Free Wi-Fi would enable them to do more and do it better. Finally, free Wi-Fi will enable all staff to be more connected to each other, to other professionals in the NHS and to our patients.

Security: Concerns are often raised, rightly, about the security of information if the Trust provided free internet access to staff, patients and their friends & families. This is only a concern if we use our existing workspace network. These concerns are easily answered by setting up an independent network for the purpose.

Innovation: At least 20 Hospitals across the UK are already offering free Wi-Fi to their patients & staff. I believe that Guy’s and St Thomas’ should be at the forefront of this movement, leading by example and so improving the Hospital experience for all.

Here’s another reminder, you can communicate with me by leaving a comment on this blog, following me on Twitter  @BrynRWilliams, using the  #CoGElections2013
hashtag or  connecting with me on LinkedIn uk.linkedin.com/in/brynrwilliams

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Bryn R Williams’ Campaign Blog

Hello, and welcome to my Campaign Blog.


Details about the Council of Governors, and the forthcoming elections can be found here: GSTT Council of Governors – Non Clinical Staff

Eligible voters will all have received ballot papers by now. The closing date for  your votes is noon, Friday 7th of June, but allowing time for post means Wednesday 5th is probably your last opportunity to have your say

So, why should I vote for you?

The reason I am standing in this election is to  promote the free and open access for all GSTT staff, not just non-clinical, to Social Media tools. I recognise that this will constitute a sea-change for the Trust, which is why there needs to be at least one member of the Governors Council pushing for it consistently and knowledgeably.

Below is a list of what I think the Trust should aspire to in terms of Social Media engagement & encouragement – comments welcomed

This is quite an agenda, and I  don’t want anyone to believe that by voting for me these proposals will automatically come about. If you choose to support me it will be to place a person in favour of these aspirations on the Council of Governors, to make the case for embracing the present in the interests of staff and patients and to lead other NHS organisations into the future.

Finally, I’d like to ask anyone who has found their way to this blog that is eligible to vote: please do so. There is one other candidate standing for this post  and I encourage you to discover what their views are and choose between us according to your preferences (as you no doubt will).

Whatever your choice please vote – and encourage others to do the same. The more non-clinical staff that participate in this election, the stronger the voice of the individual elected will be. The many invisible hands that keep GSTT running day-to-day are vital to its continued success, and should participate fully in helping to shape the future direction of the organisation that not only puts food on our tables but also provides the essential healthcare services that our community depends upon. Please add your voice and encourage others to do the same.

You can communicate with me by leaving a comment on this blog, following me on Twitter @brynrwilliams, using the #CoGElections2013 hashtag or  connecting with me on LinkedIn uk.linkedin.com/in/brynrwilliams

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