We held our latest TFPL health special interest group at the BMA in Tavistock Square last Thursday evening. The theme of the evening was to address the future of current awareness services and how they might be maintained as the NHS goes through its transition.
The evening was chaired by Sue Lacey-Bryant, Associate Director of GP Consortia Development/Chief Knowledge Officer, Milton Keynes PCT, who set the scene for the evening defining what current awareness means across the NHS, the fear of GPs of ‘not keeping up to date’, and quoting the last NHS user information needs survey, conducted by TFPL in 2005, which noted how important current awareness services were and looked at how the challenges had developed. Key points she raised were around judgement of the quality of information, how information professionals could add value, how could the different parts of the NHS stop ‘re-inventing the wheel’ over and over again – harness techniques at the local level to provide national learning?
Four presenters followed to talk about their own current awareness services they had developed and run and highlighted some of the issues they faced:
Margaret Demian, Head of Knowledge Management, NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement. Margaret illustrated their alert service which was extremely successful, with over 39,000 subscribers receiving monthly email alerts covering research and opinion to staff working in the areas of innovation and improvement. Their alert service was however, dogged with needing several logins to access information depending on what sources people clicked on, and its future as the Institute was closing in March 2013.
Anne Gray, Knowledge Officer, NHS Milton Keynes. Anne talked us through their service - knowledge@lerts for Commissioners, which had been put together after making a detailed analysis of what was provided, what was needed and then providing their service to fill the gaps. The issue was to get information to health staff in a timely manner whether they knew they needed it or not. The key to the success of their service was personalisation of information, tailoring the content in alerts to be of specific relevance to certain groups. The newsletters sent by email were kept as short as possible, highlighting resources, bringing out relevant information in reports. This service is a highly work intensive service.
Ben Skinner, Head of Library and Knowledge Services, Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust. Ben, who provides a service to share evidence, based information, also talked about the personalisation of information targeting specific groups with highly relevant information. Ben and his team had achieved this through a custom Access database that he had developed that would automatically match information and individuals. It works very well for the Brighton and Sussex district but may not be up to nationwide scaling.
Kath Williams, Service Officer – Current Awareness Service for Health (CASH), Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust. Kath presented the contributory database model they have for CASH where health librarians contribute from across the country. Contributors give and receive information from the database. The information given is based on what those contributing feel is of most relevance and interest. The information is promoted out in a series of bulletins, RSS feeds and newsletters.
Key themes coming out of these presentations for me were, that relevant, tailored and personal short bursts of information were the best way to meet current awareness needs. Working together, involving the users, was mentioned to try and co-ordinate the many and overlapping services. We broke into discussion groups to talk through these and other thoughts further. The key messages fed back were:
• There is still a lot of siloed working and a lot of repetition
• There needs to be a managed change approach to better collaborative working across the different organisations
• There are three interfaces that need to be better managed:
o National and local interface – deal with the challenges of old out of date systems
o Public health and commissioning interface – deal with the fragmentation and duplication
o Research evidence and data interface – selective targeting of streams of information most relevant at the time
• An information strategy needs to be developed for the NHS
So lots of food for thought to go away with! Perhaps some further discussions will give us further clarity at the next special interest group. Further dates will be advertised on the website.
A full report and speakers slide presentations will be available shortly on the TFPL website.