Policy watch

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The intention of this section of the Toolkit is to provide links to many of the health policy think-tanks and government bodies providing an overview of parts the healthcare system or the system in its entirety, from both a current and a predictive viewpoint. Some of the key journals are also signposted.


“Health policy refers to decisions, plans, and actions that are undertaken to achieve specific health care goals within a society. An explicit health policy can achieve several things: it defines a vision for the future which in turn helps to establish targets and points of reference for the short and medium term. It outlines priorities and the expected roles of different groups; and it builds consensus and informs people.” World Health Organisation (2015)

Why is it important for health library staff to monitor NHS policy? Library staff need to understand priorities for our organisations and consider how policy decisions will impact on our services and what this means for delivery. For example, the Health & Social Care Act (2012) significantly restructured NHS services, which has had a great impact on many working in health libraries and the groups which they serve.

By staying abreast of health policy decision-making in the NHS, library staff can anticipate challenges, risks to service delivery and identify opportunities for new ways of delivering our services.

Contributions below are from individual NHS librarians.



Regarding health policy watch, the main sites would be the Policy and Health think tanks, several of which have their own newsletters. The main ones are:

  •  The King’s Fund


The King’s Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and health care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible care is available to all.

The King’s Fund also publish and distribute weekly updates and bespoke newsletters on Integrated Care, Health and Wellbeing etcetera, and library and knowledge staff can sign up for some or all of these here.

They also regularly update their excellent Topic Reading Lists, and these are available via their Information and Knowledge Services site. The King’s Fund also regularly holds conferences, seminars and events on current priority topics, and notes and presentations are available via their site at http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/events. They also run a series of up-to-date blogs from the CEO (Chris Ham) and various Policy Leads and these are available via: http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/blog.

They also have a searchable database of health policy and management topics and this is available via the following link: http://kingsfund.koha-ptfs.eu/. In addition, they also have a dedicated list of key health topics which explore these in more detail: http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/topics.

And finally, they also have an excellent blog containing new alerts (reports and publications) across the health and social care landscape: http://www.kingsfund.blogs.com/.

  •  The Health Foundation


The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK. It regularly publishes policy papers on key health and social care topics and these are available via their publications page: http://www.health.org.uk/publications. They also regularly publish blogs from their policy leads and these are available via: http://www.health.org.uk/blog. Their new site is arranged so that themes can be searched, including one dedicated to health care policy. The Health Foundation also produces a monthly newsletter and users can sign up or search these via: http://www.health.org.uk/newsletter-features. The Health Foundation works very closely with the Nuffield Trust and for their QualityWatch site, a joint research programme providing independent scrutiny of health and social care quality.

  • The Nuffield Trust


The Nuffield Trust is an independent health charity. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate. Like the Health Foundation, the Nuffield Trust regularly publishes policy papers on key health and social care topics and these are available via their publications page: http://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/publications. They also regularly publish blogs from their policy leads and these are available via: http://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/blog. The Nuffield Trust also produces a monthly email newsletter and staff can sign up for these here: http://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/newsletter. The Nuffield Trust jointly runs QualityWatch with the Health Foundation (see above).


Government Departments and Agencies in the new health and social care landscape

  • Department of Health (DH)


DH is a ministerial department in England. DH helps people to live better for longer. We lead, shape and fund health and care in England, making sure people have the support, care and treatment they need, with the compassion, respect and dignity they deserve. They regularly publish reports and documents and these are available here.

  • NHS England (NHSE)


NHS England is an executive non-departmental public body of DH. NHS England leads the National Health Service (NHS) in England. We set the priorities and direction of the NHS and encourage and inform the national debate to improve health and care. We want everyone to have greater control of their health and their wellbeing, and to be supported to live longer, healthier lives by high quality health and care services that are compassionate, inclusive and constantly-improving. NHS England shares out more than £100 billion in funds and holds organisations to account for spending this money effectively for patients and efficiently for the tax payer. A lot of the work we do involves the commissioning of health care services in England. We commission the contracts for GPs, pharmacists, and dentists and we support local health services that are led by groups of GPs called Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). CCGs plan and pay for local services such as hospitals and ambulance services. We have devised a strategic vision for the NHS, along with our partners in health, called the Five Year Forward View. And now, with our partners, we are delivering that vision.

The NHS England website is a bit of a dog’s dinner to be honest, with no clear structure or layout, unlike the ones within the Gov.UK remit. However, they do have a publications section (including various Bulletins) which is available here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/publications/. They also have a News section which is available here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/news/.

  • Public Health England (PHE)


Public Health England (PHE) is an executive agency of DH. The mission of PHE is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to reduce health inequalities. They regularly publish publications and these are available here. They also publish a monthly Newsletter called PHE Bulletin, and these are available via this link.

  • Health Education England (HEE)


Health Education England works with DH. We are the NHS engine that will deliver a better health and healthcare workforce for England. We are responsible for the education, training and personal development of every member of staff, and recruiting for values. We are England’s health and healthcare people service. Similar to the NHS England website (a mess) but publications can be found here. HEE also publishes a sporadic newsletter entitled #HEELife and these are available via: http://hee.nhs.uk/category/publications/hee-newsletter/.

  • Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)


The Department for Communities and Local Government is a ministerial department. We work to move decision-making power from central government to local councils. This (localism) helps put communities in charge of planning, increases accountability and helps citizens to see how their money is being spent. DCLG is nominally in charge of all Local Authorities, and some of these (unitary) authorities include public health and social care in their remit. Publications are available here.

  • Care Quality Commission (CQC)


The Care Quality Commission is an executive non-departmental public body of DH. We’re the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England. We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve. CQC publications and reports are available here.

  • Centre for Workforce Intelligence (CfWI)


The CfWI is a key contributor to the planning of future workforce requirements for health, public health and social care in England. We are commissioned by DH, as well as Health Education England and Public Health England, to look at specific workforce groups and pathways, and to provide materials, tools and resources to inform workforce planning policy decisions at a national and local level. CfWI publications are available here.

  • Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC)


HSCIC is an executive non-departmental public body of DH. We are the trusted national provider of high-quality information, data and IT systems for health and social care. HSCIC publications are available via their publications calendar.

  • Horizon Scanning Research and Intelligence Centre (HSRIC)


HSRIC is funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to provide key NHS decision makers with timely information about emerging health technologies that may have a significant impact on patients or the provision of health services in the near future. It has a remit to identify key emerging drugs and advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs), therapeutic vaccines, medical devices and equipment, diagnostic and predictive tests and procedures, rehabilitation aids and therapy, and public health interventions. Research and publications are available here.

  • Local Government Association (LGA)


We are the national voice of local government, working with councils to support, promote and improve local government. LGA publications are available here, most recent first. The LGA site can also be searched via programme themes, including health, wellbeing and adult social care. The LGA also produces a monthly health and wellbeing system bulletin newsletter available here.

  • Monitor


Monitor is an executive non-departmental public body of DH operating across England. It is the sector regulator for healthcare. Its main duty is to protect and promote the interests of patients by making sure healthcare services are effective, efficient and economic. Its work includes licensing healthcare providers and ensuring they are well-led in terms of quality and finances; making sure essential healthcare services continue to be available even if a provider gets into financial difficulty; and safeguarding patient choice. They are working closely with the NHS Trust Development Authority (see below NHS Confederation) to establish a new body called NHS Improvement but separate site not yet available. Its publications are available here.

  • NHS Confederation


The NHS Confederation is the only membership body that brings together and speaks on behalf of all organisations that plan, commission and provide NHS services. We have nearly 500 members drawn from every part of the health and care system. We have three roles – to be an influential system leader; to represent our members with politicians, national bodies, the unions and in Europe; and to support our members to continually improve care for patients and the public. All of our work is underpinned and driven by our vision of an empowered, healthy population supported by world class health and care services; and our values of voice, openness, integrity, challenge, and empowerment.  Publications and case-studies are available via their resources page.

  • NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA)


The NHS TDA works with DH. It is responsible for providing leadership and support to the non-Foundation Trust sector of NHS providers. The TDA will oversee the performance management of these NHS Trusts, ensuring they provide high quality sustainable services, and will provide guidance and support on their journey to achieving Foundation Trust status.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

NICE is an executive non-departmental public body of DH operating in England. It provides national guidance and advice to improve health and social care, including quality standards, clinical guidelines and public health guidelines; these are all available via the NICE guidance section of the site. NICE also publish a range of newsletters covering primary care, social care public health etc., which are available to subscribe or download here. NICE also includes a local practice case-studies section of its site.

  • Office for National Statistics (ONS)


ONS is the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics and the recognised national statistical institute of the UK. It is responsible for collecting and publishing statistics related to the economy, population and society at national, regional and local levels. It plays a leading role in national and international good practice in the production of official statistics. ONS publications are available here, with most recent listed first. The ONS site also contains specific themes, including health and social care.


Key health policy journals

  •  Health Service Journal (HSJ)


HSJ is the source for NHS news and health management and policy issues. From commissioning to mental health, from policy making to the front line, HSJ offers unrivalled news, analysis and opinion.

  • Health Policy [Elsevier] 


Health Policy is intended to be a vehicle for the exploration and discussion of health policy and health system issues and is aimed in particular at enhancing communication between health policy and system researchers, legislators, decision-makers and professionals concerned with developing, implementing, and analysing health policy, health systems and health care reforms, primarily in high-income countries outside the U.S.A.

  • Health Policy and Planning [Oxford University Press] 


Health Policy and Planning’s aim is to improve the design, implementation and evaluation of health policies in low- and middle-income countries through providing a forum for publishing high quality research and original ideas, for an audience of policy and public health researchers and practitioners.

  • Journal of Health Services Research & Policy [Sage] 


The Journal of Health Services Research & Policy presents the latest scientific research, insightful overviews and reflections on underlying issues, and innovative, thought provoking contributions from leading academics and policy-makers. It provides ideas and hope for solving dilemmas that confront all countries.

RSS Feeds


Social Media

  • King’s Fund: @TheKingsFund;  Facebook; LinkedIn  
  • Health foundation: @HealthFdn; Facebook; LinkedIn 
  • Nuffield: @NuffieldTrust; Facebook; LinkedIn 
  • DH: @DHgovuk 
  • NHS England: @NHSEngland 
  • Public Health England: @PHE_uk 
  • Health Education England: @NHS_HealthEdEng 
  • Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG): @communitiesUK
  • CQC: @CareQualityComm
  • Centre for Workforce Intelligence: @C4wi 
  • Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC): @HSCIC 
  • Horizon Scanning Research and Intelligence Centre (HSRIC): @OfficialNHSC 
  • Local Government Association: @LGAcomms 
  • Monitor: @MonitorUpdate 
  • NHS Confederation: @nhsconfed 
  • NICE: @NICEcomms 
  • Office for National Statistics (ONS): @ONS 
  • HSJ: @HSJnews 
  • Health Policy and Planning: @HPP_LSHTM 
  • MAP Toolkit: @maptoolkit

Guidance & Top Tips 

MAP Toolkit Drivers section https://maptoolkit.wordpress.com/drivers/ Includes short summaries of high impact policy and reports and identifies how these may be of relevance for library staff.

MAP Toolkit case studies and project plans these 2 templates include sections are available for library staff to use to plan a basic project or to summarise a completed project. Each asks you to demonstrate how the project is aligned to local and national priorities. There are completed examples provided on the web site from other Libraries.

LondonLinks Alignment Project http://www.londonlinks.nhs.uk/resources/files/alignment-tool/ This web site includes a number of cases studies from a range of libraries in the NHS which demonstrate how service provided link to the Darzi Quality Framework and the Hill Review. There is also a case study template which is available for you to use. 

Publish cases studies about your work which are linked to specific health policies in library journals, magazines, social media, newsletters examples of which are:

  • HILJ
  • CILIP Update
  • Health Libraries Group Newsletter
  • Case studies on the MAP Toolkit contact

Also, remember to share information about your work and its impact outside the library world: