A new report commissioned by PIF member Health Education England highlights the important role of NHS library and knowledge specialists.

Library and Knowledge Services Value Proposition: The Gift of Time outlines the positive impact library and knowledge services have on the care patients receive.

It was presented to an all-party parliamentary group earlier this month.

The report identifies key benefits of a library and knowledge service within an NHS organisation and, specifically, the specialist roles embedded within NHS teams.    

It says health librarians and knowledge specialists make the gathering of information as easy as possible for healthcare professionals, relieving the burden of sourcing and synthesising evidence while enabling NHS organisations to meet their statutory obligations to get evidence into practice across the service.  

'The right knowledge services improve outcomes'

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, 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."

10 key messages

The report contains 10 key messages:

  1. NHS library and knowledge services operate across a diverse and complex customer base.
  2. The services provided take the ‘heavy lifting’ out of getting evidence into practice and give the ‘gift of time’ to healthcare professionals.
  3. Informed decisions improve outcomes, quality of care, patient experience, resource utilisation and operational efficiencies. This is best achieved when healthcare professionals are supported by the right knowledge services, with the right resources and with the right teams and roles.
  4. When supported by high-performing services, NHS provider organisations are able to demonstrate how they are meeting their statutory obligations to use evidence to inform practice and hence improve their CQC ratings.
  5. The service provides healthcare professional staff with time-saving accelerated access to better quality evidence. This, in turn, enables the NHS to meet its statutory obligations to utilise evidence from research and for healthcare professionals to use their time more effectively to drive improvements.
  6. Case studies of high-performing NHS library and knowledge services demonstrate two key enablers for benefits realisation: they have a clear strategic leadership role in knowledge management and mobilisation and are integrated with service delivery.
  7. There is a growing and consistent body of robust international evidence to support this value proposition.
  8. Recently published research from the NHS suggests similar benefits do exist for the NHS.  
  9. Assuming findings from the international literature are applicable to the NHS, the service is potentially already generating an overall economic (not budgetary) benefit of £132m per annum for the NHS, delivering a net economic benefit of £77m per annum. This could increase to £106m per annum were recommended staff ratios for librarians achieved.
  10. Further high-quality NHS based research will help to quantify the ‘gift of time’ for healthcare professionals and the associated quality improvement benefits for patients, provided by services staff.

Health Education England