About the 2023 audit of locally purchased eresources.

In February 2023, managers of NHS-funded knowledge and library services in England were asked to complete an audit of e-resources purchased by their Trusts, including those funded from their own budgets, and those funded from other sources but managed/promoted by the KLS team.

137 returns were received, representing 78% of services. Not all respondents declared the cost of all resources, but it is possible to extrapolate an estimate of total investment.

The audit had previously been run in 2021 to capture spend on local resources in 2020 (and in 2019 to capture spend in 2018) so some longitudinal comparison is also possible.

The data collected via this biennial audit is invaluable to the national Knowledge and Library Services Team, enabling us to monitor trends, identify where there would be a strong case for national purchase or fairer and more transparent local pricing, and calculate cost per relevant WTE workforce numbers, for instance.

In order of frequency, the most commonly purchased resources are:

  • MAH Complete
  • Wiley Medicine and Nursing Collection
  • BMJ Case Reports
  • ClinicalKey

Across all services, 660 different resources are purchased, of which 329 are bought for one organisation only.

The total declared spend in 2022 was almost exactly £12m. 

About £5m of that spend is directed at e-journals, with about £3m spent on what we classed as ‘combined databases of different formats’ and £2m on ‘point of care’ tools.

Comparing declared spend by organisations submitting costs for both 2022 and 2020, we estimate a 29% increase over the two-year period, a figure which surprised us. Of course, some of this will be accounted for by price rises as well as by new subscriptions.

The total extrapolated spend across the 137 returns is an estimated £13.7m, so an average of £100,000 per service. There is of course wide variation between services, and as above, not all of this spend comes directly from library budgets.

An anonymised version of the audit analysis is available if you’d like more detail.


Mr Richard Bridgen

KLS Development Manager, East of England and South

Knowledge and Library Services