Header image for the current page Making library and knowledge services business critical

As part of its ambition to ensure NHS library and knowledge services (LKS) are integral to informed decision-making and innovation, Health Education England tasked Arden & GEM with delivering a series of workshops that would upskill library staff to be able to provide evidence to support the needs of managers and commissioners.

A series of 11 workshops took place which gave 148 attendees the skills and tools to support the business needs of their region. Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive with 87% of respondents stating that information, knowledge and skills gained have led, or might lead, to improving service delivery for customers.

The challenge

While librarians commonly work as part of multidisciplinary teams supplying evidence to support clinical decisions on patients care and treatment, there are far fewer librarians supporting commissioning decisions – the business critical aspects of health services.

As part its ambition to extend the role of healthcare LKS, Health Education England (HEE) published ‘Knowledge for Healthcare’, a development framework. The vision is for LKS to become an integral part of informed decision-making and innovation, including providing commissioners with the statistics and case studies to make robust decisions which ensure high-quality care.

To upskill staff in this growing area of need, HEE commissioned Arden & GEM to provide a series of workshops titled ‘Making LKS Business Critical’.



Our approach

Arden & GEM’s medical librarian has been providing commissioners with the information required for whole system improvement since the CSU’s inception in 2013.

We designed a series of 11 workshops, taking place over 12 months, to meet the objectives of HEE which were to:
Upskill staff to provide the evidence to support the business needs of managers and commissioners in their region
Generate ideas for collaborative resources to support LKS in this task.

Designing the format and content
By focusing on the two objectives above, the intention was that in addition to giving participants new skills, there would also be a range of tools developed to support the deployment of these skills on an ongoing basis. To support practical learning, participants were also asked to bring a current topic from their area to review as part of the session.

Key areas covered by the sessions were:

  1. Understanding the business world of commissioners/managers
  2. Who are the decision makers in the organisation and what are their organisational priorities
  3. What are the key resources and how are they used
  4. Presentation of evidence for managers.

As the workshop series progressed, the content and format evolved in response to participant interactions and evaluation forms received. This ensured the workshops were as effective and useful as possible.

Creating collaborative resources
To support the workshop series, a ‘Wiki’ was also created which provides links to a range of useful resources such as examples of searches and reports, alerting services, research topics and key research tools. A year on from the last workshop, the Wiki is still used by participants as a learning resource.

As part of the session, attendees were also encouraged to come up with ideas to support each other, to both share existing resources and create ongoing communities of practice.

"It was good to have the opportunity to spread my knowledge and experience of the needs of health service commissioning to my NHS library colleagues and to help work together to support the business needs of their organisations."

Anne Gray, Knowledge Officer at Arden & GEM CSU

The outcomes

To upskill librarians and support the creation of ongoing collaborative resources, Arden & GEM designed and facilitated a series of 11 workshops throughout England. These were attended by 148 people, including regional leads and service leads, representing each region of HEE.

In addition to completing standard evaluation forms on the day, participants were also asked to complete an impact evaluation form by the Knowledge for Healthcare Continuing Professional Development Group to test whether the workshops had embedded changes in practice.

The online survey received a 29% response rate, with 87% of respondents agreeing that information, knowledge and skills gained have led, or might lead, to improving service delivery to customers.

Comments from participants included:
“I was able, and more confident, to plan events, create presentations and be part of the executive team strategic planning forums.”

“I am now able to support teams with in depth searches to support QIPP, audits and business plans.”

“This has helped me to find and use relevant evidence from NHS sources to support our strategic aims and business objectives.”

“We are now regularly providing board members with searches and feedback has been positive.”

“Having a greater understanding of the way that managers use knowledge to ‘think around’ an issue, I feel liberated to include evidence that was perhaps outside the scope of their original search request, but that I felt was important to their understanding.”

"Anne is a highly skilled and experienced information professional, who also has a talent for inspiring others to confidently transfer their skills by really focussing understanding on the audience and their needs. She was the obvious person to approach to deliver this training on behalf of HEE."

Helen Bingham, Head of Knowledge Services and Technology Enhanced Learning at Health Education England South