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Knowledge and Library Services

Healthcare is a knowledge industry. “It is not enough to have the right teams in the right place, collaborating to deliver high quality, efficient patient care. It is essential that they use the right knowledge and evidence at the right time.”

cover of Knowledge for Healthcare

Health Education England is the strategic lead for NHS knowledge and library services in England. The Knowledge for Healthcare strategy sets the direction and defines priorities for the development of these services. Our ambition is that:

NHS bodies, their staff, learners, patients and the public use the right knowledge and evidence, at the right time, in the right place, enabling high quality decision-making, learning, research and innovation to achieve excellent healthcare and health improvement.

We are committed to enabling all NHS staff to freely access library and knowledge services so that they can use the right knowledge and evidence to achieve high-quality, safe healthcare and health improvement. 

The strategy is supported by policy recommendations and an Outcomes Framework that helps NHS-funded organisations review and improve their healthcare library and knowledge services.

Read Knowledge for Healthcare: Mobilising evidence; sharing knowledge; improving outcomes

Here's what people say about the important role of healthcare library and knowledge services...

Dr Navina Evans, Chief Executive, Health Education England:

“ Applying knowledge into action is the currency of a successful healthcare organisation. Taking the ‘heavy lifting’ out of getting evidence into practice to improve the quality of care, NHS Knowledge and Library Service teams offer the ‘gift of time’ to healthcare professionals.”


Professor Matthew Cripps BA MA CPFA, Director of Covid-19 Behaviour Change Unit and Director of Sustainable Healthcare, NHS England and NHS Improvement:

“There's always more to know. We don't know everything. The more we know the better and the more likely we are to make the right decisions and librarians and knowledge specialists will help us.

"It’s simple - to make better decisions by knowing more, get your NHS librarian involved. And if you do, you'll make even more right decisions and choices than you do already."


Patrick Mitchell, Director of Innovation, Transformation and Digital, Health Education England:

“Staff and learners need ready access to high quality evidence and to the expertise and resources of knowledge and library services. By offering an ‘open door’ for anyone looking for answers, being non-judgemental, providing clinical decision support and digital resources 24 hours a day, NHS knowledge specialists put the evidence into evidence-based practice.”


Sue Lacey Bryant, National Lead for NHS Knowledge and Library Services in England:

“Day in, day out, decisions are made that have a profound impact on people’s lives: on policy, the practice of healthcare and patient safety. Increasingly we see the benefits of aligning knowledge specialists with multi-professional healthcare teams. Reach out and invite them to be part of your team.”

National Lead

Sue Lacey Bryant

National Lead for NHS Knowledge and Library Services, Health Education England.
Ask me about knowledge strategy, policies, collaborative working to enable informed decision-making, and the development of NHS Knowledge and Library Services in England.


Heads of knowledge and library services, Health Education England

Helen Bingham

Head of Knowledge and Library Services, South West, Thames Valley and Wessex, Health Education England.
Ask me about services based in the South, contract management, resource discovery and digital knowledge resources.

Ruth Carlyle

Head of Knowledge and Library Services, East of England and Midlands, Health Education England.
Ask me about services based across the East of England and the Midlands, health and digital literacies and research.

Louise Goswami

Head of Knowledge and Library Services, London and Kent, Surrey and Sussex, Health Education England.
Ask me about services in London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, mobilising evidence and knowledge.


The senior knowledge and library services leads work together to:

Provide strategic advice and professional leadership to NHS organisations

Undertake a range of activities which benefit from economies of scale including commissioning, procuring and managing a suite of electronic knowledge resources accessible to all health and social care staff

Uphold standards that minimise inequality of service and demonstrate that NHS knowledge and library services provide value for money through the Knowledge for Healthcare Quality and Improvement Outcomes Framework for NHS-funded library and knowledge services.

Provide a targeted range of appropriate professional and personal staff development opportunities, for the Knowledge and Library Services workforce

Act as a conduit between local and national NHS programmes

Promote innovation in library and knowledge service design and delivery

Enable the adoption and spread of good knowledge and library services practice throughout the NHS

Engage with non-NHS healthcare libraries via Royal Colleges, independent and third sector organisations, and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.

Please email senior leads on kfh.england@hee.nhs.uk


Healthcare relies on knowledge to be successful. It is not enough to have the right teams with the right skills in the right place, working together to deliver high quality and efficient patient care. It is also essential that they use the right knowledge and evidence to make informed decisions about patient healthcare.

Health Education England (HEE) is committed to enabling all NHS staff to freely access library and knowledge services so that they can use the right knowledge and evidence to achieve high-quality, safe healthcare.

NHS bodies are encouraged to check that they have arrangements in place so that their staff can capitalise on the specialist expertise of healthcare librarians and knowledge specialists, ensuring that decision-making is underpinned by evidence derived from research. Organisations are invited to contact their Strategic Library and Knowledge Services Lead for help in setting up or strengthening these arrangements.

Library and knowledge services across health have a strong track-record of sharing expertise and working across boundaries. Resource sharing and collaboration are vital to implementing the framework we call Knowledge for Healthcare.

Agreed by the HEE Executive, our policy sets out for the first time our approach to delivering on our key objective of enabling access to knowledge and evidence for healthcare decision-makers.

The policy is supported by the new Knowledge for Healthcare Quality and Improvement Outcomes Framework for NHS-funded library and knowledge services. The Outcomes Framework is an integral element of HEE’s Quality Framework and it enables HEE to assure the quality of NHS-funded library and knowledge services and support delivery of the vision and aims of Knowledge for Healthcare and the HEE Quality framework.

The NHS requires proactive knowledge services as business-critical instruments of informed decision-making. Currently there is significant variation in the ratio of qualified librarians and knowledge specialists to healthcare staff, leading to inequitable service provision across England. This means that the Service is not uniformly able to draw on evidence for #MillionDecisions.

The introduction of a recommended staff ratio is a key action by Health Education England to enable individual organisations to identify and address that risk. For the first time this policy, agreed by the Health Education England Executive in November 2019, provides a set of recommendations from which trusts and arm’s length bodies may look to ensure, and where necessary continuously build, improved staffing levels.


1. To optimise the benefits for the NHS of the emerging new roles for librarians and knowledge specialists, HEE recommends that all NHS organisations:

(i) review regular reports of the positive impact of the library and knowledge service on outcomes

(ii) work with the local library service manager to prioritise allocation of clinical librarian, knowledge manager and other embedded roles to specialities

(iii) take incremental steps to improve the staff ratio between qualified librarians and knowledge managers per member of the NHS workforce, through role redesign and by expanding this specialist workforce.

2. HEE recommends that over time, all NHS organisations aspire to achieving a much-improved staffing ratio.

3. HEE recommends that those NHS organisations with a staffing ratio in the region of the current average of 1 qualified librarian to 1,730 or more healthcare staff, strive to achieve a ratio of at least 1 qualified librarian or knowledge specialist per 1,250 WTE NHS staff.

4. HEE commits to monitoring the staff ratios annually and to reviewing the recommended ratio in three years’ time.

Increasingly, NHS organisations are deploying knowledge specialists within clinical settings to bring evidence to bear in the ward, and in primary and community care. Our expectation is that the number of embedded roles for knowledge specialists will grow. This policy makes three recommendations to NHS provider organisations. Asking them to review and put in place appropriate mechanisms for psychological support for this specialist workforce to ensure their health and wellbeing.


1. NHS organisations ensure that the psychological well-being of librarians and knowledge specialists working in clinical environments is considered.

2. NHS organisations extend existing arrangements for the multi-disciplinary team to include clinical librarians and knowledge specialists.

3. Access to psychological wellbeing services provided within the organisation is highlighted to embedded librarians and knowledge specialists working in clinical environments.

Every day across the healthcare sector in England more than a million decisions are made that have a profound and lasting impact on people's lives and which influence the quality of healthcare and the cost of services.

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and Health Education England are campaigning for decisions in the healthcare sector to be fully evidence-based, calling on everyone involved in policy making and care delivery to make use of the skills of librarians and knowledge specialists in meeting their obligations under The Health and Social Care Act 2012.

Under the Act, The Secretary of State must ensure the use of evidence obtained from research and healthcare providers are required make use of the best available evidence in their decision-making. Arms' length bodies and those commissioning or influencing healthcare services have a responsibility to promote and monitor the use of evidence-based decision making.

The campaign started on 30 January 2017. Join in by sharing your thoughts on Twitter using the campaign hashtag #AMillionDecisions.

Library and knowledge services underpin all aspects of the NHS. They supply the evidence base to enable excellent healthcare; support and inform policy, commissioning, and service redesign decisions; enable lifelong learning and research; and through partnership working offer health and patient information.

The Health Library & Information Services Directory allows you to look up your local library by area, trust or county.

An NHS Open Athens account provides access to a large number of electronic journals, books, databases and e-learning resources. If you haven’t got an NHS OpenAthens account, register on the Athens registration link (please use an NHS computer if possible). If you have registered, but have forgotten your password please go to the Athens forgotten password page.

You can search databases, e-journals, e-books on the NHS Knowledge and Library Hub.  Some people may need more advanced searches and we offer support for that too.

Knowledge for Healthcare 2012-2016

In January 2021 Health Education England’s national Knowledge and Library Services team published Knowledge for Healthcare: Mobilising evidence; sharing knowledge; improving outcomes.

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