Positively promoting health and wellbeing and preventing ill health has arguably never been more important. Responsibility for local public health services rests with local authorities. Public health professionals face a complex task. They work in locally specific, politically sensitive and financially constrained contexts.
Evidence from research and learning from best practice are key to their success in influencing decision-making. Yet, the fact is that some 40% of local authority public health teams do not currently have access to healthcare library and knowledge services.
Where information professionals have been able to apply their skills they find it rewarding work, and quickly prove their value.
“Public health staff are keen, appreciative and great ambassadors for our service. Sometimes they search themselves, sometimes they ask us – searches can be complex but have given us the opportunity to stretch develop our knowledge and skills.”
Anne Lancey, Library Service Manager, Isle of Wight NHS Trust
We don’t underestimate the challenge of reaching public health teams – but that 40% gap represents a real risk for them and an opportunity for NHS library and knowledge services to make a significant contribution. What can you do?
1 – Benefit from the experience of colleagues
We’ve drawn on the experience of the knowledge specialists and library teams already supporting public health to create a public health toolkit for NHS librarians who want to reach out to public health. It will also be useful for those looking to further develop their service offer. The Toolkit covers the basics – like ‘What do public health staff do?’. Critically it also covers the nitty-gritty – practicalities such as service specifications and charging models.
‘I’m fairly new to the NHS, so found the networking/best practice support sections of the toolkit most useful. That said the SLA elements will be very helpful when it comes to renewing our agreements in 2018”.
William Henderson, Assistant Librarian, Luton and Dunstable Hospital NHS Foundation Trust:
2 – Join lis-publichealth
Join the growing community of information professionals who support public health and/or want to share ideas and learn from those who do. Sign up here.
3 – Connect with Public Health England librarians and knowledge specialists
Are you linked with the PHE knowledge and library specialists in your area? They don’t provide direct services to local authorities – hence the opportunity for enterprising NHS librarians. However, they can support NHS librarians by producing guides, sharing tips, coordinating networks and helping you to make contacts.
4 – Come to the PHE study day on Wednesday 15 November in London
NHS librarians supporting, or aspiring to support, local authority public health staff are warmly invited to attend the PHE knowledge team’s annual study day in London. There’ll be speakers from PHE, NICE, NIHR and CHAIN. It’ll be a great opportunity to network, learn and debate. Watch out for details on lis-publichealth.
5 –Be ready to seize fresh opportunities to make an impact and to strengthen your business
Local authority public health staff now have access to the 1,300 plus full-text journals funded by PHE, as well as the core content titles purchased by the NHS, via a new bespoke discovery portal. PHE knowledge staff will promote the portal, and this is a perfect opportunity for NHS library managers to step in with the offer to provide value-added knowledge support services to local authority staff.
Helen Bingham, Head of Knowledge Services and TEL, HEE (South) & Wendy Marsh, Senior Knowledge & Evidence Manager, PHE