What is your current role and what do you enjoy about it?

My name is Ruth Carlyle. I work for Health Education England as Head of NHS Library and Knowledge Services across the East of England and the Midlands. As one of four strategic lead roles in England, I do not manage the local NHS library and knowledge services, but provide professional and strategic guidance.

I also lead on specific work-streams within our national strategic framework, Knowledge for Healthcare: Patient and Public Information; and Research.

Having worked in the voluntary sector for most of my career to date, this role is a fantastic opportunity to work within the NHS, rather than as an external partner. It is also a role in which my professional background as a health librarian is not only valued, but an essential.


What is the key area you are working on at the moment?

My key area that relates most specifically to the Patient Information Forum is leading on health literacy as part of our Patient and Public Information work. Health literacy is the ability to access, assess and apply health information to make decisions.

We are developing a suite of health literacy resources that we plan to use with NHS librarians and to spread skills and awareness. I am also working with colleagues on the relationship with digital literacy and information literacy.


What’s your biggest health information challenge?

Distrust of authoritative information and poor ability to judge the accuracy of information sources is the biggest challenge. This is a health literacy issue, but also a wider issue of information literacy and ability to establish the accuracy of content. We need to support people to understand the need for patient information to be based on the best current evidence. NHS librarians are ideally placed to facilitate access to evidence, to increase awareness of health literacy and to develop partnerships with the voluntary sector and public libraries. 


What’s the best bit about working in health information?

I am continually inspired by the activities of health information specialists and the impact of these activities on people’s lives.  We are privileged to work in a sector when we can make such a positive difference.  It is a field in which we are continually having to innovate, learning about new technologies and techniques, so that we can create or disseminate content that is increasingly personalised.


What do you find useful about being a PIF member?

The Patient Information Forum occupies a unique space as a membership body for health information producers.  As a librarian, I have professional connections, notably through the Health Libraries Group of our professional body, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.  The Patient Information Forum complements professional bodies by bringing people together on the basis of a common involvement in health information, regardless of profession or sector.  So, I find the cross-sector connections created by the Patient Information Forum the most useful aspect of being a PIF member.

Whilst I was working at Macmillan Cancer Support, I was fortunate in being able to be an Advisory Group member for PIF. I was therefore able to see at close hand how the Patient Information Forum draws on the experience of people from a range of sectors and brings them together.


What top tip do you have to share on health information? 

My top tip on health information is partnership. There is more than enough for all of us to do in health information. We are working in an era of growing public demand, the complexity of personalised medicine and increasingly personalised health information.  We can only hope to be able to ensure that the right information, based on the best evidence, is available if we work in partnership on the evidence base, production, dissemination and ongoing improvement of health information.