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Library and knowledge services

Healthcare library and knowledge services underpin education, lifelong learning, research and evidence-based practice. Our ambition is to extend this role so that healthcare knowledge services become the integral part of informed decision-making and innovation.

We published Knowledge for Healthcare, sharing our vision 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.

This development framework sets out an ambitious vision for provision of Library and Knowledge Services and is a significant transformation programme.  

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

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

Professor Ian Cumming OBE, Chief Executive, HEE:

Every day across the healthcare sector more than a million decisions are made which have a profound impact on people’s lives and which influence the quality and cost of healthcare services. The Government and health organisations have obligations under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to ensure the use of evidence from research and to make use of the best available evidence in their decision-making.

Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, Director of Nursing and National Deputy Director of Education and Quality, HEE:

All healthcare students and trainees/learners should have access to the best available evidence to ensure they do their very best to care safely and effectively for those that put their lives in their hands. Our excellent library and knowledge services, easily accessible and available, underpins the training that nurses undertake and supports them through their revalidation.

Patrick Mitchell, Regional Director – South of England, HEE:

With the NHS striving to reduce clinical variance across the system to improve clinical efficiency and effectiveness, improve patient safety and save money, the importance of strong evidence to a Board or a healthcare professional at the patient’s bedside can never have been more crucial. The knowledge management skills of our healthcare librarians are at the fore and I am very excited to be leading this major change for a key but almost ‘hidden’ workforce in the NHS. The direct benefit to patients is evident from case studies and it is a delight to see so many healthcare librarians put themselves forward for the variety of development programmes we have established to underpin this transition. Our librarians are the backbone of support for learning and I encourage everyone to see what they are doing.

Professor Wendy Reid, Director of Education and Quality, Medical Director, HEE:

Putting timely knowledge into the hands of healthcare professionals working across care settings is vitally important for making clinical decisions that are based on sound evidence. With unprecedented time pressures on health professionals, embedded health librarians and knowledge services to support them in clinical and community settings are a vital resource.

Our workstreams

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 board, 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.

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.

The regional library and knowledge 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 library and knowledge services provide value for money through the development and monitoring of the national Library Quality Assurance Framework (LQAF) and the collection and collation of statistical data

- Provide a targeted range of appropriate professional and personal staff development opportunities, for the Library and Knowledge 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 library and knowledge 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.


Sue Lacey Bryant, Senior Adviser, Knowledge for Healthcare.

David Stewart, Regional Director of Health Library and Knowledge Services North.

Midlands and the East
Ruth Carlyle, Head of Library and Knowledge Services and Technology Enhanced Learning.

London and the South East
Louise Goswami, Head of Library and Knowledge Services and Technology Enhanced Learning.

Helen Bingham, Head of knowledge Services and Technology Enhanced Learning.

You may also wish to discuss with your regional library and knowledge service leads what needs to be done in-house to achieve the Knowledge for Healthcare vision within your own organisation.

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 for databases, e-journals, e-books on the Healthcare Databases Advanced Search page. At NICE Evidence Search you can search evidence sources in health and social care.