The NHS has told staff to use Whatsapp to communicate during emergencies after producing its first guide for staff.
Medics have already turned to encrypted communication apps to deal with emergency situations such as the 2016 Croydon tram crash, and last year’s Grenfell Tower fire and terrorist attacks in London Bridge and Manchester.
The new guidance will help NHS organisations and staff to make a judgment on how and when to use instant messaging safely in acute clinical settings, taking into account data sharing and data privacy rules.
Simple steps that staff will be told they should take include only using apps and other messaging tools that meet the NHS encryption standard, not allowing anyone else to use their device, and disabling message notifications on their device’s lock screen to protect patient confidentiality.
They will also be advised to keep separate clinical records and delete original messaging notes once any advice has been transcribed and attributed in the patient’s medical record.
Dr Helgi Johannsson, consultant in anaesthesia at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, set up a major incident instant messaging group to help coordinate his hospital’s response to Grenfell Tower after learning from the Westminster attack, and was involved in reviewing the new NHS guidance.