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Independent report underlines value of NHS library and knowledge services

3 November 2020

Specialist library services are freeing up the time of clinicians, enabling them to devote more hours to patient care, and could be saving the NHS as much as £77 million a year, according to a new report commissioned by Health Education England.

If the ratio of librarians to health professionals was increased to the level recommended by HEE, it’s thought that figure could rise to as much as £106 million.

The report, ‘NHS-funded Library and Knowledge Services in England Value Proposition: The Gift of Time’, has been launched at the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Libraries this week.

Health librarians and knowledge specialists make the gathering of information as easy as possible for healthcare professionals, relieving the burden of sourcing and making sense of evidence. This helps NHS organisations meet their statutory duty to use evidence from research within the service.

Library and knowledge services are usually based within trusts and teaching hospitals, providing digital knowledge resources and information services as well as  physical walk-in libraries, with staff on hand to research queries for clinicians.

Increasingly, librarians are embedded within clinical teams accompanying doctors and nurses on ward rounds, ready to source information about conditions and treatments instantly online.

According to the report by Economics By Design, NHS Library and Knowledge Services could be saving the health service in England the equivalent of £77 million annually in terms of time saved seeking information, if the results of international research are applied.

Patrick Mitchell, Director of Innovation and Transformation, Health Education England, said: “This report gives us some truly great insight into the value that embedded NHS Library and Knowledge Services bring to staff at all levels of the healthcare system when planning and delivering care for local people.

“Librarians are probably not the first role that spring to mind when people think about the NHS. However, the part they play, and the specialist expertise they provide, give clinicians some of the most important tools they have to treat patients effectively – information, and time. All the evidence shows that the right knowledge services improve outcomes for patients.”

Sue Lacey Bryant, National Lead for NHS Library and Knowledge Services in England, Health Education England, said: “We are passionate about the positive impact that librarians and knowledge managers have on the quality of care. Our regional library teams will now work with NHS organisations and local library services to help the NHS fully realise all these benefits.

“We will continue to work with trusts, Integrated Care Systems and Arm’s Length Bodies to make sure that NHS library services are adequately resourced; aligned with local priorities and able to support the organisation to adopt NICE guidelines and CQC standards.”

The report is available to view here:  https://www.hee.nhs.uk/our-work/library-knowledge-services/value-proposition-gift-time