Tag Archives: Health Education England

Two years on from Topol: Preparing ourselves for the Digital future

Two years have passed since publication of the Topol Review so it is timely to ‘take stock’. Why not take 5 minutes to review how emerging technologies are impacting on health and on NHS knowledge services?

Chaired by digital guru Dr Eric Topol, the Review anticipated the impact of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, digital medicine and genomics on the functions and roles of the current and future healthcare workforce.  This Spring Health Education England (HEE) brought together authors of the report to reflect on changes since 2019. Prof. Lionel Tarassenko chaired a meeting with some of the Review Board, while I led a fascinating roundtable discussion with the clinical fellows who worked on the report.

The Review was well supported by knowledge specialists and knowledge managers as they considered the existing evidence base, scanned the horizon and managed the work. Thanks are due to the expertise of the team at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust led by Rachel Cooke, and our own HEE Knowledge Management service, managed by Emily Hopkins.

Citizens and patients at the centre: the importance of health literacy

The Topol Review placed the needs of patients and the public at its centre. The recommendations emphasise the importance of public health education initiatives and of working in collaboration with voluntary groups and information providers.

HEE’s national knowledge and library services team has since developed a suite of health literacy resources. Have you completed the e-learning programme produced in partnership with public health colleagues within HEE and with NHS Education for Scotland? Health literacy awareness training, including a “train-the-trainer” programme, has been delivered to NHS knowledge and library staff across England and this provides a foundation for the next stage.

Working with organisations which provide information and are able to support citizens develop information skills, Ruth Carlyle is leading a significant initiative to build a sustainable health literacy partnership. Over the next five years we will be working in partnership with public libraries, prison libraries, with pharmacists and with education libraries.

Adopting new technologies in health knowledge services   

The opportunities flagged by the Review are reflected throughout Knowledge for Healthcare 2021-2026,  particularly in relation to our work on resource discovery, led by Helen Bingham.

Using AI to enhance access to evidence

AI is helping to improve the search experience and reduce the time it takes to summarise and synthesise evidence.  Products like Yewno Discover, EBSCO’s Knowledge Graphs and 2Dsearch can help searchers to visualise and construct complex searches, navigating volumes of knowledge to retrieve information. This can make advanced and expert searching more accessible to the novice user. For knowledge specialists, these products can help to save time, act as a prompt to include additional search terms and help with communicating search strategies to end-users.

AI and machine learning are also showing promise in the field of systematic review and evidence synthesis. Recent work by Jon Brassey et al[i] shows that machine learning can effectively identify, assess and collate research findings to produce evidence maps, pointing to time-savings in synthesising evidence

HEE is supporting a trial of Yewno Discover with the University Hospitals Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust to explore how staff and learners might benefit from an AI-based approach to searching. Examples of other work in the field include the use of the RobotAnalyst tool by NICE and the MetaVerse tool by Public Health England. A trial of the IRIS AI system by MerseyCare NHS Foundation Trust, to read all Open Access papers, added depth to the search for clinicians and researchers.

Integrating evidence into the clinical workflow

There are significant opportunities to improve the accessibility of evidence through direct integration with clinical workflows.  HEE subscribes to the BMJ BestPractice clinical decision support tool for all NHSW staff and learners in England.  A recent study[ii] has shown that integrating BMJ BestPractice into wider clinical decision support system can improve consistency of diagnosis and reduce average stays from 7 days to 6 days. BMJ Best Practice and HEE are collaborating to promote the integration of BMJ Best Practice into electronic health record systems to ensure that practitioners have access to the evidence at the point of need.

Developing as a specialist workforce

The Review recommended an increase in the number of knowledge specialists to meet the demands of the NHS as a knowledge-based industry. Knowledge for Healthcare 2021-2026 emphasises the importance of workforce planning and development for our specialist workforce.

In the light of the Topol Review the team has put a lot of thought into how best to enable healthcare knowledge specialists, librarians – everyone in the team – to build their knowledge and enhance their skills to deliver the digital future. Dominic Gilroy leads our workstream on workforce planning and development and again, it is timely to share our progress.

Policy recommendations

HEE has approved several new policies to support the Topol recommendation, not least establishing a recommended minimum staff ratio. This is a key action by HEE to enable individual organisations to identify and address the risk that they may have insufficient capacity to maximise the benefit of knowledge specialist roles to inform the spread of innovation.

An updated CILIP Professional Knowledge and Skills Base

HEE worked with CILIP to revise the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB), and with thanks to Dominic who played a key role in the working group.  Through discussion with Dr Andrew Cox, the author of the CILIP Technology Review – itself a response to the Topol report – we have ensured that key skills and competencies relating to digital technologies are included in the new PKSB which will be launched later in the year. There will also be new healthcare sector guidance as a companion to the main PKSB – to be launched early this summer.

Library Carpentry for NHS Librarians

To build the data and programming skills of NHS Knowledge and Library Specialists, HEE has joined Library Carpentry.  We will be running training courses for sixty librarians through 2021/2. There will then be an opportunity for six people who have undertaken the course to be trained to deliver the course.  Holly Case-Wyatt is leading on this partnership.

Library Carpentry workshops build software and data programming skills for people working in library and information settings. This will allow participants to automate repetitive library functions and enhance evidence by adding another angle of analysis. These skills will also enable our workforce to further support the needs of students and researchers in the NHS, may of who will need to use software within their research. The Carpentries have already reported receiving enquiries from other disciplines, including Healthcare Scientists and consultants.

How can we keep up to date?

Thanks to the HEE KM team, which produces a monthly round-up about emerging technologies in libraries, we can all follow developments in the field. Sign up via: KnowledgeManagement@hee.nhs.uk

We are equally grateful to the Emerging Technologies Group, co-chaired by Stephen Ayre and Hannah Wood. They scan the digital horizon and let us all know when they spot something that might impact on the information world. They have written several blogs, including: enhancing wifi connections to improve the experience of working from home, and a review of the AI for Healthcare MOOC delivered by HEE in partnership with Manchester University.  You might also check out the webinar on Virtual Reality in health libraries.

Developing a Certificate in Digital Technologies

Recognising that knowledge and library specialists need to enhance their skills for a digital healthcare system, we believe the NHS needs people who understand more about AI, Machine Learning, robotics and other technologies. More generic digital knowledge, sometimes called “computational sense” is also required to inform handling enquiries from health professionals, and to be able to signpost and advise appropriately.  In an exciting new initiative, we are partnering with HEE’s National School of Healthcare Science and Manchester University to develop a Digital Technologies Certificate that will be for all NHS staff including knowledge and library specialists.

To quote Knowledge for Healthcare: “Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence and robotics are reshaping the ways teams create, discover, use and share information. We expect the emergence of new roles and responsibilities for knowledge and library service staff working alongside clinical teams and health informaticians.”

Sue Lacey Bryant – and the team
National Lead for NHS Knowledge and Library Services
Health Education England

[i] Brassey J, Price C, Edwards J, et al

Developing a fully automated evidence synthesis tool for identifying, assessing and collating the evidence

BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine 2021;26:24-27.

[ii] Tao L, Zhang C, Zeng L, Zhu S, Li N, Li W, Zhang H, Zhao Y, Zhan S, Ji H
Accuracy and Effects of Clinical Decision Support Systems Integrated With BMJ Best Practice–Aided Diagnosis: Interrupted Time Series Study
JMIR Med Inform 2020;8(1):e16912
doi: 10.2196/16912






#AMillionDecisions – an ongoing initiative

70 for #NHS70: endorsements for #AMillionDecisions at NHSConfed18

A fantastic two days of advocacy about the role of health librarians and knowledge specialists took place last week at the NHS Confed18 Exhbition in Manchester.  Conversations were held with over 70 senior leaders across the healthcare system who signed-up to support the key messages of the campaign, highlighting the critical role of specialist health librarians to encourage the use of evidence and knowledge to inform decisions made in health care.

In addition four of our champions  provided interviews about the necessity to use reliable evidence in health care decision making, outlining the multiple benefits from working with health librarians.

Louise Goswami and Sue Lacey-Bryant travelled from Manchester to Keele to deliver a keynote presentation  to the CILIP Health Libraries Group Conference which described what has changed as a result of the campaign.

The campaign to-date

Phase One of the #AMillionDecisions campaign reached its conclusion at the end of 2017. The campaign was successful in gathering high-profile senior leader support and enabling conversations to take place about the critical role of library and knowledge services at a national level. Tangible results include the NHS Library and Knowledge Services Policy being embedded in the NHS England researc h plan; a pilot knowledge broker service for the National Association Primary Care (NAPC) care home initiative; regular communications to various NHS organisations about library and knowledge services and trialling questions relating to library services within the GMC survey.  Further potential for greater partnership working with a range of organisations, such as the Care Quality Commission, NHS England and NHS Improvement are also underway. Further leads from events such as our presence at the NHS Confederation Conference 2017 are still being followed up.

Featured throughout the campaign were a series of social cards featuring endorsements from high-profile champions and the production of case study vignettes illustrating the impact of the work we do.

At a local level #AMillionDecisions has presented a clear message that can be used by Library and Knowledge service teams to celebrate the impact of their work upon healthcare services.

Ongoing developments

A meeting was held with CILIP in the early part of 2018 and a decision taken to continue to use the #AMillionDecisions messaging and branding as an ongoing initiative celebrating the critical role of specialist health librarians to encourage the use of evidence and knowledge to inform excellent health care and health improvement. The second phase of this initiative will focus around reaching out to those that employ health librarians and to NHS organisations and individuals which currently do not make use of library and knowledge services. It will share a range of outputs such as the Evidence and Knowledge Self Assessment Tool and the Literature Searching and Knowledge Mobilisation e-learning tools to encourage use of evidence and knowledge within the health service in England.

Further endorsements have been sought and published across social media – in 2018 these have included endorsements from Professor Gillian Leng, NICE; Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, University of Oxford; Dr Andrew Goddard, Royal College of Physicians; Dr Tim Swanwick, Health Education England;  Dr Nav Chana, NAPC; Dr Jonty Heaversedge, NHS England and Professor Tim Evans, NHSI.

The illustrative case studies supplied by you continue to be shared as examples of good practice with many senior stakeholders.

How can you get involved?

We ask that you continue to use the #AMillionDecisions logo, collect endorsements from your own local champions and continue to submit impact case studies to the Knowledge for Healthcare Blog. Two basic templates are available for you to develop and share examples of your own local social cards and impact case study vignettes. Continue to use the hashtag in your social media posts and share key messages from the initiative within your organisations.

An Espresso Cafe was held at the CILIP HLG Conference to gather feedback about  #AMillionDecisions.  Notes from that session are available here.

For further information please contact your regional library lead.

Health Education England collaborates with library and reading experts to improve patient choice

Health Education England (HEE) has signed a memorandum of understanding with leading organisations in the library and reading arena in a bid to promote greater and more personalised healthcare literacy across the population.


HEE will work with the Society of Chief Librarians and The Reading Agency to promote the importance of health literacy. The three organisations will work together to devise and launch programmes that allow people to access personalised information that allows them to make more informed choices about their care and treatment and improve the quality of their life.


The Society of Chief Librarians leads and manages public libraries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and advocates continuous improvement in the library service. Its membership is made up of heads of service at each library authority.


The Reading Agency is a national charity inspiring people of all ages and all backgrounds to read for pleasure and empowerment. Working with partners, their aim is to make reading accessible to everyone.


The provision of high quality, evidence-based, accessible health information is an important driver in HEE’s Knowledge for Healthcare Framework for NHS library and knowledge services, published in 2015. The framework was developed to enable NHS bodies, staff, learners, patients and the public to use the right knowledge and evidence at the right time and place to enable better clinical decision-making.


Patrick Mitchell, Director, South of England, Health Education England said:

“I am delighted to sign the Memorandum of Understanding with the Society of Chief Librarians and The Reading Agency. It is a very positive step towards collaborating across sectors to underpin health literacy, ensuring people can access high quality information to assist them to make informed choices about their care and treatment.”


Sue Wilkinson, Chief Executive of The Reading Agency, commented:

“It is with great pleasure that we are able to formalise this important new partnership with Health Education England. We look forward to using the MOU to activate an exciting programme of activity supporting our shared work with the Society of Chief Librarians on Reading Well and the Universal Health Offer as well as HEE’s ambitions for the delivery of Patient and Public Information.”


Neil MacInnes, President of The Society of Librarians, added:

“It’s wonderful news that SCL and The Reading Agency’s work with HEE has now been formally ratified. Our partnership will strengthen the delivery of Reading Well and the Universal Health Offer through public libraries – keeping people in our communities active and engaged as we continue to support their health and wellbeing.”


For further information contact louise.goswami@nhs.net or Ruth.Carlyle@hee.nhs.uk