Published on 08 December 2020, by Ruth Carlyle
Reflections on the work of the Health Literacy and Patient Information workstream in 2020
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Søren Kierkegaard
As we come to end of 2020 and look forward to a new year of opportunities, building on the great work already done, it is a good time to reflect on all that has been achieved in the health literacy and patient information workstream since 2016.
In our first blog posting, Carol-Ann Regan and Natasha Howard described how approaching senior stakeholders in their Trusts had led to the development of work to support patient information.
Those initial conversations led to the development of a toolkit of ideas to help us all to make the case and understand the drivers for librarians and knowledge specialists to support patient information. Good practice was also shared in the Ideas Bank. Different ways of supporting patient information were identified, from providing evidence for patient information leaflets, signposting information accessible to all and training volunteers and healthcare professionals to find quality, evidence-based information online.
Although we have a key role in supporting patient information, partnership working with other information providers, healthcare professionals and organisations is needed. In 2018/19, a group taking the Health Education England funded CILIP Leadership Development Programme formed a Health Information Team. With representatives from Trusts, NICE, Public Health England and the voluntary sector, they worked together to develop a regional initiative called Health Information Week into a national one.
Different health information teams have worked to support us and in 2020 our “do once and share” approach saw a new logo and branding, poster templates, and a social media toolkit – quick and easy ways to enable us all to participate. Health Information Week in July is now part of our yearly calendars.
In 2018, we began to prioritise raising awareness of the importance of Health literacy amongst the healthcare workforce, enabling them to recognise the impact that low health literacy has for patients, carers and our healthcare system. The key statistics show 43% adults aged 16-65 do not understand words-based health information sufficiently well to act on it; when numbers are added, 61% adults aged 16-65 do not understand. Truly shocking statistics which have implications for both individuals and the health system. Health literacy month in October is also a fixture in our calendar each year and exciting things are planned in the next 5 years
Our lives have changed hugely since the start of 2020. Reflecting on the changes, participants in the HEE funded Senior Leadership Development programme described how “Health hasn’t been just the primary concern for health and care professionals or those individuals with health conditions, it has been the predominant topic for everybody globally.” This blog encourages us all to share examples where we have supported patients and healthcare professionals during the pandemic.
Our key role to support patients and colleagues to be health literate, to make best use of health information and the health service, is even more pressing. The shortlisting of the coronavirus resources site for an HSJ award is amazing https://library.nhs.uk/coronavirus-resources
Alongside our roles in health literacy and patient information, we have also been proactive in providing resources to support the health and wellbeing of all: an ever-growing and ever-more important resource. Look out for further news in 2021.
There is a huge amount to celebrate and be proud of as we have adapted, upskilled, and collaborated. If you want to know more please contact Ruth Carlyle or Sue Robertson.