Why NHS Libraries play a key role in Patient and Public information
As NHS Librarians, we are used to playing a key role in providing evidence for patient care as part of our service to healthcare staff. We have skills in finding the evidence, appraising it and making it readily available in formats needed by our healthcare colleagues. We are already partners in patient care.
We can use these same skills in our interactions with patients, carers and the public.
There is a real need for patients and the public to have access to high quality, reliable health information. As patients are being encouraged to self-manage (2) and be partners in their care they need access to a range of resources tailored to their literacy level. Recent research has indicated that:
“Forty-three per cent of the English adult working-age population cannot fully understand and use health information containing only text. When numerical information is included in health information, this proportion increases to 61%.”(3)
Evidence, however, shows “that providing high quality health information is beneficial. It has a positive impact on service utilisation and health costs, patients’ experience of healthcare and patients’ health behaviour and status”. (4) We in NHS libraries can act as signposts to the information that these groups need to empower them to be active participants in their health and well-being.
In the following guidance we have outlined some ways that NHS libraries can interact with patients, carers and the public; this may be directly or indirectly (eg via healthcare professionals). By working collaboratively and using the resources in this guide, the skills and expertise NHS Library staff already use can make some level of contribution to public and patient information achievable.
We may also need to look at ways of expanding our library services to healthcare staff as they strive to engage with patients with varying literacy levels. Our training skills can be utilised to include facilitating health literacy awareness for all healthcare professionals.
We hope that the examples of best practice that we have used will motivate you to become more involved in this area. It is a core part of the Knowledge for Healthcare vision. It is an extension of the work many NHS libraries are already engaged in as part of patient care.