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HSE staff are ‘not excluded’ from using social media messaging services

Separately, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) told the Medical Independent (MI) that correspondence sent by such social media messaging platforms is covered by Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation.

“Our policies do not exclude the use of modern channels of communications for information of a non-sensitive and non-personal nature,” a HSE spokesperson told MI.

“The HSE actively encourages the use of social media channels to support effective internal communication among staff which helps to improve the services that we provide to the public.

“We provide and continually review and update our staff guidelines, policies and procedures in relation to social media.”

 The HSE guidance to staff states that confidential information regarding HSE business practices and procedures or personal information about any HSE patients, clients or employees “must not be posted or discussed on Internet social networking websites”.

 Using an example, this newspaper asked whether the HSE Leadership Team would use a Viber group, for instance, to discuss day-to-day Executive issues.

“The HSE Leadership Team do not discuss day-to-day Executive issues on social media platforms,” said the spokesperson.

Asked whether correspondence via such online messaging services is covered by FoI legislation, the HSE spokesperson said that when a request is made for “all forms of documentation”, the Executive “complies with the FoI Act 2014 in this regard”.

DPER stated that FoI legislation does cover such messaging services and platforms.

“In our view, the existing FoI legislation covers records of official information held on such platforms, as ‘record’ is defined in Section 2 as including electronic records,” a spokesperson for DPER’s Freedom of Information/Central Policy Unit told MI.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has responsibility for FoI policy and legislation matters.

“Such records would be subject to the usual caveats around if they are ‘held’ by the FoI body concerned and if any exemptions might apply to the records,” said the DPER spokesperson.

MI asked the Department of Health a series of questions regarding the use of social media messaging services, but had received no reply by deadline.

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