Primary care trusts in England are failing to capitalise on the power of social media websites such as Facebook to reach out to their local community, a survey has suggested.

NHS Salford, one of the biggest advocates of the use of Facebook and Twitter in engaging with the community, conducted the survey which found that just over a third (36%) of PCTs had a presence on Facebook, while only 28% were currently visible in the Twittersphere.

The findings of the survey have prompted a series of recommendations by NHS Salford for fellow PCTs on how they can improve their use of social media to promote healthcare online.

They include keeping Facebook and Twitter profiles active and updated, responding to followers’ messages and Tweets and minimising staff breakaways to prevent confusion over multiple accounts.

The survey also found that of the two main social media websites, Twitter is less prone to being rendered inactive than Facebook, with 88% of Twitter accounts still being used by PCTs compared with 60% of Facebook profiles.

NHS Salford’s head of communications, Karl Brookes, said PCTs should embrace social media as part of their engagement plans.

“Good communication has always been about using the appropriate channels at the right time to reach the right people. Clearly social media is one of these channels and Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have been around long enough to ensure it’s not just a fad,” he said.