Expert searching using the provider interfaces: what did we learn from the “early adopter” pilot and what happens next?

We know that the decommissioning of HDAS in March 2022 represents one of the biggest changes for NHS knowledge and library services for some years. To understand how best to help colleagues move to using provider interfaces for database searches, HEE funded a six-month pilot to work with library teams to identify what training, support and technologies will help with the transition.

The pilot project was coordinated on behalf of HEE by Emily Hurt and Vicky Price, who worked very closely with leaders of each pilot group.

Who was involved in the pilot?

A total of 32 library services from the East Midlands, East of England, Greater Manchester and Kent, Surrey and Sussex took part in the pilot. Across these services, 98 expert searchers switched from using HDAS to provider interfaces.
Pilot participants were offered:

  • Training on the use of provider interfaces. Platform-specific training was delivered by the providers, and also librarians from the University of Cambridge delivered sessions based on their experience of using provider interfaces.
  • Access to reference management software, including funded access to EndNote and RefWorks as well as free-to-use products (Zotero and Mendeley).

Participants were asked to complete:

  • A baseline demographic survey
  • Pre- and post-switch search experience questionnaires
  • Training evaluations
  • A reference management software evaluation

Towards the end of the pilot period, all participants were invited to take part in a series of After Action Reviews and knowledge sharing sessions.

Key findings

Many pilot participants had concerns about changing their practice, learning new ways of working and the possible impact on productivity and/or the quality of search outputs. Equally, many perceived benefits, including developing new skills, using reference management software and using the additional features of provider interfaces.

Most pilot participants conducted between one and three searches per week.

The average pre-switch time spent completing searches using HDAS was 3 hours 9 minutes. This increased to 3 hours 18 minutes when searchers switched to the provider interfaces.

The librarian-led training delivered by the University of Cambridge was very well received. We learned that provider-led training needs to be better tailored to the needs of NHS searchers.

Peer support and collaborative working proved invaluable. Sharing knowledge and experience was an important element of each pilot group.

Provision of a single point of contact for user support will continue to be critical, and going forwards, service support clearly needs to be extended to include provider interfaces and reference management software.

Pilot participants reported unexpected variation in their experience of using provider interfaces and identified the interface developments most likely to benefit NHS searchers. Reliance on HDAS has meant these needs had not previously been identified or explored.
Reference management software can definitely help with deduplicating results and formatting search outputs, but the pilot identified some practical issues which need to be addressed.

What is HEE doing next?

Taking into account all the learning from the last six months, the following actions have been identified as priorities.

Training for knowledge and library service staff

Database providers are being asked to offer platform-specific training tailored to the needs of searchers in the NHS, including basic and advanced searching. This will be available from July onwards.

HEE is commissioning a series of librarian-led training sessions for those who carry out complex searches. These will be delivered in August and September, and again in January and February.

Peer support and sharing

HEE will support the sharing of good practice through signposting, blogposts, case studies and additional resources, hosted on the new KLS website.

HEE will strengthen opportunities for peer support and learning through forums, network events, training and other methods.

Provision for non-librarian searchers

The focus of this pilot was librarians as the primary users of HDAS. We anticipate that most search needs of many end-users will be met by the new national discovery service, to be launched in autumn 2021. However, we know some end-users will still need to carry out advanced and complex searches using the provider interfaces.

HEE will work with NICE to communicate with HDAS users from September, providing information about the discontinuation of the service and signposting alternatives.

HEE will work with volunteers to co-produce signposting guides for end users and resources which can be used locally to train users of provider interfaces.

Technical developments

To help make the switch from HDAS easier, all three database providers are being asked to prioritise the following developments:

  • “Title/Abstract” search field
  • Standard ‘HDAS-like’ output format, available in Microsoft Word, PDF, Microsoft Excel and RIS as a minimum
  • Autosave function

HEE will also work with providers and OpenAthens to reduce the number of accounts needed across interfaces.

Full text linking in provider interfaces and reference management will be improved by the introduction of EBSCO’s Full Text Finder and Third Iron’s LibKey over the coming months.

Reference management software

All library staff with an NHS OpenAthens account will be provided with access to RefWorks (as a second phase, we hope it will be feasible to offer access to library service users as well).

RefWorks will be configured with OpenAthens authentication and enhanced full-text linking using LibKey, and an ‘HDAS-like’ output format will be implemented.

Training and support for using reference management software will be provided.

HEE will seek to negotiate discount pricing for those wishing to buy EndNote locally. The desktop client version of EndNote was highly regarded by pilot participants and offers advanced functionality for those doing large volumes of searches, but unfortunately cannot be made available via a web-based national subscription.

Engagement with database providers

With NICE, HEE has started to engage with our database providers to include more clearly defined requirements in contract monitoring processes, and to influence interface developments based on librarian feedback.

When National Core Content is next reprocured, we will investigate options for reducing the number of interfaces needed to access the required range of bibliographic databases.

Service desk support

HEE will work with NICE and providers to develop an integrated support desk function to cover enquiries relating to database provider interfaces and RefWorks as well as the national discovery service, link resolver and OpenAthens.

Communications and engagement

The pilot has underlined the importance of working together to solve problems, and of timely and effective communications, to build a shared understanding. This is a time of great change for individuals and services and we want to fully engage with teams through this and other projects.

Exploring new tools and technologies

Separately from the pilot, we have worked with the HEE digital team to review and refine the specification of requirements for expert searchers originally created following the discovery research undertaken by Lagom Strategy. We will continue to consider which tools and technologies could potentially help those searching multiple datasets, but the actions above are the priority.

What should library teams do next?

A key recommendation from the pilot is that knowledge and library service staff new to provider interface searching should allow time over the coming months both for training and post-training practice.

Over the next few weeks, look out for information about:

  • Training opportunities
  • Reference management software
  • Co-production of training resources for end-users
  • Case studies from those who have already switched from HDAS

The early adopter pilot and feedback from the After Action Reviews and knowledge sharing sessions have been invaluable in informing our thinking and planning. We are very grateful to all those who participated. Particular thanks go to the group leaders Affra Al Shamsi, Heather Gardner, Paula Elliott, Steve Glover and William Henderson, as well as Isla Kuhn, Veronica Phillips, Eleanor Barker and Jo Milton at Cambridge Medical Library.

We welcome your further suggestions, just us know via

The full pilot report is available at

K is for Knowledge and M is for Mobilisation. Why bother with Knowledge Mobilisation in healthcare?

At a recent workshop the statement was made that no-one understands the term knowledge mobilisation explaining that it needs to be translated to have meaning within the specific cultural context of a particular organisation.  So what words do you use to describe knowledge mobilisation for your own organisation? 

Sharing ideas; reflecting; connecting; experiential learning; networking; using organisational knowledge; sharing information; learning lessons; using evidence; managing knowledge; translating knowledge; organisational learning; using know-how; learning before, during and after; transferring knowledge; sharing good practice and ideas; connecting people. 

The good thing about the term “knowledge mobilisation” is that it encompasses all of the above but this also makes it tricky to define.  Breaking the term down may help. 

KNOWLEDGE:  That which is explicit or documented – research, data-sets, guidelines and that which is tacit – the know-how and values held by individuals and within organisations based upon wisdom and experience  

MOBILISATION:   Organising and preparing for action – considering how knowledge is to be used to achieve a particular purpose.   

Knowledge Mobilisation is about connecting and encouraging people to share explicit and tacit knowledge  AND  to  USE  this knowledge to inform their decision making.  

This definition was reflected on a discussion board by participants at the recent UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum: 

  • “Getting the right knowledge to the right people at the right time so they can use it in a way to aid in their decisions and sometimes this right knowledge is also about getting the right people to the right people at the right time” 
  • “Knowledge Mobilisation is about bringing together different communities to share knowledge to catalyse change” 
  • “Joining up /connecting different forms of knowledge (from research, from practice, from experience, etc) helping people make sense of it all and how it joins up to build a clearer picture” 

 An easy-read description 

Within Knowledge for Healthcare (HEE, 2021) one of the key strands of work relates to mobilising evidence and knowledge.  In the easy-read version of the strategy (HEE, 2021) this is simply described as “Getting the right information from different places and sharing it” and this “right information” can be from reports, research , the  internet and from the things people know but haven’t written down.  People can then use this knowledge to help inform their decisions and actions.   

What about knowledge management? 

Some prefer the term knowledge management but this too lacks an agreed definition (BSI, 2018) and often gets confused with information management (Payne, 2020).  Knowledge management has been described by Nancy Dixon as evolving through three eras over the last 20 years.  The first era relates to leveraging documented knowledge, creating a collection and connecting people to it.  The second is concerned with leveraging experiential knowledge which is primarily concerned with connecting people to people and the third era is about leveraging collective knowledge and is primarily about creating new knowledge and innovation often from conversations (Dixon, 2018).   More recently there has been discussion about  the evolution of a fourth era, some consider that this will reflect technological changes with increased use of artificial intelligence whereas others feel there is a further stage of collaboration emerging (Henley Forum, 2020; CILIP, 2020)   

Knowledge Mobilisation incorporates all of these phases as described by Dixon and many of the processes, tools and techniques commonly associated with knowledge management are part of the knowledge specialists’ toolkit to mobilise knowledge.  The decision to substitute the word mobilisation for management is however very deliberate.  Rather than control and organise knowledge our role as knowledge specialists is about enabling others to actively use knowledge to inform their decisions and actions. 

 Where does evidence fit into all of this? 

Knowledge Mobilisation is also concerned with enabling the use of evidence.  Evidence comes in many forms and varying degrees of quality and volume depending on the topic. It is often research published in peer-reviewed journals, or as reports. Evidence based practice emphasises the importance of understanding and applying the evidence taking into consideration other factors including expert knowledge and values.  Decisions must take account of the best available evidence and individual and organisational knowledge.  Enabling evidence-based practice must consider the capture and mobilisation of knowledge as well as evidence. Knowledge specialists enable decision makers to take account of this full continuum.   

The valuable role of the knowledge specialist 

The Knowledge Specialists’ role is crucial, not only providing access to evidence, perhaps as books or research databases, but also gathering examples of good practice and connecting people to actively encourage knowledge and insights to be shared.  To mobilise knowledge the knowledge specialist translates and transforms all of this knowledge so it can be easily used and applied in practice by the people working within healthcare organisations, services and systems.  Sometimes described as a “knowledge broker” the knowledge specialist uses their expertise to ensure healthcare organisations, services and systems are effective in mobilising evidence and internally generated knowledge. They also ensure  that healthcare staff can: 

  • Apply and use evidence 
  • Build know-how 
  • Continue to learn 
  • Drive innovation 

They do this by: 

  • Connecting people to people  
  • Connecting people to knowledge and the evidence base  
  • Connecting people to good practice
  • Ensuring  people  keep up to date 
  • Facilitating shared learning 
  • Connecting people to corporate knowledge
  • Enabling collegiate working 

Aligned to multidisciplinary teams, embedded knowledge specialists release the time of health professionals by seeking out evidence and good practice. They are often asked to synthesise and summarise information, working with clinical or management teams to deliver decision-ready evidence and knowledge.  They promote tools and techniques so teams can capture, share and re-use staff know-how and organisational knowledge; enabling teams to learn continuously and work collegiately.  Mobilised in this way knowledge is used to underpin strategy, operations and innovation and helps to foster a learning culture. 

But, another team does this in my organisation. 

Some of the aspects of knowledge mobilisation may be carried out by other teams within the organisation.  Chris Collison describes it as one country bordered by many, including organisational development, research, project management, quality improvement, informatics, education and training, transformation to name but a few (Collison, 2014).  One role for the knowledge specialist is therefore to build bridges with these other disciplines and to work in partnership with these teams to align knowledge mobilisation activities.  Recently an example of how knowledge mobilisation activities mapped to a quality improvement cycle was shared on Twitter (Gibbons, 2021):

Tweet with image of circles Weaving evidence, horizon scanning and knowledge mobilisation through the QI journey

A picture says more than a thousand words 

If we use “knowledge mobilisation” with conviction to describe the valuable work knowledge and library specialists do then there will be less of a necessity to reach for an alternative for each separate NHS organisation or system.  You may find that a single image encapsulates all of this much more effectively. 

Drawing of a road with signposts adn icons indicating different types of evidence and knowledge 

The bottom-line is that knowledge mobilisation, when done well, encourages NHS bodies, their staff, learners, patients and the public to 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.  

For further information about knowledge mobilisation please refer to  the  NHS Knowledge Mobilisation Framework.   To get ideas for knowledge mobilisation activities take a look at the KM ToolkitKNOWvember resources or start a conversation of your own on the KM Community of Practice. 


UK Knowledge Mobilisation Forum 2021 – discussion board at forum 

Health Education England (2021) Knowledge for Healthcare: Mobilising evidence; sharing knowledge; improving outcomes

Health Education England (2021) A plan to make NHS Library Services in
England better.  Knowledge for Healthcare Easy Read

BSI (2018) BS ISO 30401: Knowledge management systems – Requirements.  London: BSI 

Payne, J. and Fryer, J. (2020) Knowledge management and information management: A tale of two siblings. Business Information review 37(2): 69 -77 

Dixon, N.M.  (2018) The three eras of knowledge management.  In: J.P. Girard and J.I. Girard (Eds.) Knowledge management matters:  Words of wisdom from leading practitioners (19-47). Macon, GA: Sagology

Henley Forum 20th Annual Conference 2020, Collaboration for Innovation.

CILIP (2020) Conversation Café Webinar with David Gurteen

Collison, C (2014) Mapping the KM Landscape.  Knowledgeable Blog Post 

Gibbons, A. (2021) E4QI Meeting Tweet re presentation by @PhoneixAutumn Weaving evidence, horizon scanning and knowledge mobilisation through the QI journey

Alison Day
Knowledge for Healthcare Project Manager
Health Education England

New CILIP Professional Knowledge and Skills Base

In partnership with CILIP, Health Education England are delighted to make the revised Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB) and Healthcare Sector Guidance notes available to NHS Knowledge and Library Specialists in England.

The PKSB provides an excellent framework for individuals to map their existing knowledge and skills against the requirements of their current or future roles, identify gaps, and prioritise professional development.  For service managers and organisations, the tool is indispensable, helping to identify skills and knowledge gaps within a team and thereby inform training and development plans.

The revised PKSB has been extended to reflect the growing importance of skills in data handling and knowledge management, and to incorporate recommendations around digital skills identified by CILIP’s Technology Review.

Developed by a cross-sectoral working group, the PKSB itself is generic, applying to library and information professionals in any sector. It can easily be adapted to many different areas of the profession.  Health Education England, and knowledge and library specialists, have also worked with CILIP to produce Health Guidance Notes which provide practical examples of how the knowledge and skills identified in the PKSB may apply to roles in health context.

What has changed in the new PKSB?

Perhaps the most obvious change to the structure of the PKSB is two new sections about Data Management and Knowledge Management.  These reflect the growing importance of skills in these areas for information professionals as well as a growth in CILIP membership from colleagues specialising in these fields.

The relevance of Knowledge Management skills for health knowledge and library specialists is explicit in the priorities set by the Knowledge for Healthcare strategy. The need to manage information and share lessons learned have become high profile through the pandemic.

A glance at the Data Management section reveals skills such as AI and Algorithmic Literacy which includes “Critically evaluating automated search….processes.”  This is surely a familiar skill to any colleague who has helped users to understand how search engines work.

This and other additions also reflect the findings of CILIP’s Technology Review, the profession’s response to the Topol Review.  Emerging technologies are changing the delivery of knowledge services. New skills here include the intriguingly entitled “Computational Sense” which captures the unique skills of knowledge and library specialists in adapting and adopting new technologies and acting as a bridge between the needs of users and those developing technologies.

Other changes include:

  • Moving the Core Principles to the start of the document and explicitly referencing “Professional Development” among these principles
  • An emphasis on the importance of taking a leadership role at all levels
  • Expanding the section on literacies and learning including digital, media, and health literacy
  • Inclusion of new generic skills including Reflective Practice, Team Working, Consultancy and Consultancy Services.
  • Strengthening of the document to address bias and reflect our commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion.

Where will I find the PKSB and the Health Guidance?

The PKSB is made freely available to all NHS knowledge and library staff in England through a partnership agreement between Health Education England and CILIP.

The tool remains the intellectual property of CILIP and for this reason you are not permitted to share the resources.  You should receive an email from Health Education England including details of how to access the resource but if you have any problems accessing the documents you should contact:

Following the full launch of the PKSB by CILIP in the summer all CILIP members will have access to the PKSB and associated guidance, including an online interactive version of the PKSB.

 I am part way through professional registration. What does this mean for me?

To avoid any potential confusion, CILIP encourages colleagues who are currently undertaking Professional Registration (Certification, Chartership, Fellowship) to use the same version of the PKSB throughout the process.

Facet Publications Discount

The PKSB Healthcare Sector Guidance lists a number of Facet titles which may be of interest in developing skills against each section of the PKSB.  Between 1st May and 31st August Facet is offering a 15% discount against all print titles listed in the PKSB Healthcare Sector Guidance for any colleagues who may not be CILIP members

List of titles (Word)

List of titles (Excel)

When ordering these titles please use the discount code PKSBHEE15

A reminder that CILIP members already receive a 35% discount on Facet titles at all times.

Accessing the new PKSB

NHS knowledge and library colleagues should receive an email from Heath Education England via their Library Manager including details of how to access the resource but if you have any problems accessing the documents you should contact:


Dominic Gilroy
Deputy Head Knowledge and Library Services (North West, North East and Yorkshire)
Health Education England