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HSE abandons tender and changes WhatsApp policy

The HSE has abandoned a tender procurement process to provide a messaging service for its staff, the Medical Independent (MI) has learned. A spokesperson for the Executive confirmed that it has changed its policy on staff using WhatsApp during the current pandemic.

In April 2019, MI reported that the HSE was working on a tender to provide a messaging service, similar to WhatsApp, for its staff following approval by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Previously, in early 2018, this newspaper reported on evidence of widespread work-related use of WhatsApp groups by doctors and other staff in the Irish health system. At the time, the HSE said it had data protection and privacy concerns regarding the use of such software.

“This is why our security policy does not allow use of this software” a HSE spokesperson said in March 2018.

The spokesperson also said that the growing use of WhatsApp by doctors had been discussed in the Office of the Chief Information Officer and “in a number of hospitals”.

However, the HSE has now abandoned its tender for a new messaging service and is encouraging staff to download WhatsApp “to your HSE smartphone” so it can be used “in certain circumstances”. 

“This procurement has not progressed due to the Covid response, and is not currently a priority for the HSE,” an Executive spokesperson told MI earlier this month.

“An arrangement is in place for the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak to use WhatsApp in certain circumstances.”

The HSE has information on a webpage on how to use WhatsApp. “You can now download WhatsApp to your HSE smartphone or device and use it for messaging, audio or video call,” according to the website.

“WhatsApp will be available for the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak. When using WhatsApp for work, we must abide by the HSE’s data protection policies and procedures.”

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