Spotlight on apprenticeships in NHS Knowledge and Library Services

As part of National Apprenticeship Week we want to shine a light on apprenticeships in NHS Knowledge and Library Services.  Apprenticeships are a lynchpin of upskilling the specialist workforce required to deliver the strategic ambition of Knowledge for Healthcare:

"NHS bodies, their staff, learners, patients and the public use the right knowledge and evidence, at the right time, in the right place, enabling high quality decision-making, learning, research and innovation, to achieve excellent healthcare and health improvement."

There are just over 1000 staff working in the 174 NHS knowledge and library services in England and since 2019 there has been a steady increase in the number of apprentices.  In 2022, 3.5% of our workforce were recorded as working towards an apprenticeship award. 

In 2023,  the number of people following the specialist Level 3 Library, Information and Archive Services Assistant Apprenticeship exceeded those following other entry-level apprenticeships in topics such as business administration and customer care.  We also have several people working on higher level apprenticeships in areas such as leadership, management and systems thinking.

After attending a careers fair aimed at 16- to 19-year-olds it is clear that apprenticeships are the most popular route to developing skills and knowledge to grow a career.  Our apprentices recognise many  benefits of apprenticeships. 

For some it was a way to secure a first-time role within NHS knowledge and library services and to build experience whilst demonstrating ability in numeracy, literacy and digital literacy.  For others it presents an opportunity to gain a qualification and recognition for the work they already deliver. 

Informatic with Kate Greenfield, Library and Knowledge Services Administrator, NHS England.
Kate Greenfield

Apprenticeships offer flexibility and opportunities to balance work, learning and home life commitments.  Real-world on the job skills and knowledge are developed with the benefit of gaining a recognised qualification and recognition for job roles. 

Informatic with Tom Saye, Library Assistant, East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust.
Tom Saye

They can be a launch-pad to progress in a career in health librarianship and knowledge management.  This was the case for Jen.  Working at Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Jen started her career as a knowledge services assistant and then decided to pursue the Level 3, Library, Information and Archive Services Assistant Apprenticeship . 

Achieving this award confirmed that this would be a good career path to follow and Jen is now progressing her career, completing a Master’s degree to become a fully qualified knowledge and library specialist whilst working in a Band 5 developmental role.  Jen’s manager adds:

“The apprenticeship has been of great value allowing a very skilled and driven knowledge services assistant to bolster her knowledge, and progress in her career”  Clare Payne, Knowledge and Evidence Services Manager, Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Informatic with Jack Welch, Library Assistant, Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Jack Welch

For employers, apprenticeships also bring many benefits.  They have been used to combat vacancies, to attract diverse talent and used to retain experienced staff.  Apprenticeships not only develop the skills and knowledge of the apprentice but also of the wider team, improving service delivery and generating new ideas, leading to innovation.

Informatic with photo of Stephen Ayre, Knowledge and Library Services Lead, George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust and South Warwickshire University NHS Foundation Trust.
Stephen Ayre

At George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust and South Warwickshire University NHS Foundation Trust, manager Stephen Ayre explains how working with his apprentices have proved to be thought-provoking.  It has led to questions such as Why do we do that? Which in turn have led to service improvements.  All Level 3 library assistant apprentices must complete a project as part of their End Point Assessment.  Stephen explains how one such project revolutionised the patient information service in his Trust.


What next for a Level 3 knowledge and library service apprentice?

As an employer if you have spent time growing the skills and knowledge of an individual it is in your interest to keep them in post.  We encourage managers either to offer the apprenticeship to existing staff in substantive roles or to move apprentices into substantive roles once they have successfully completed their apprenticeship. 

Their development journey can continue by attending our fully-funded CILIP accredited short course offers from the Knowledge for Healthcare Learning Academy.  Recent sessions have covered AI and bias, customer service skills, UX and social media marketing.  We also have off-line offers through the Knowledge or Healthcare Learning Zone.  We encourage professional registration with CILIP and are delighted that there is a conversion route to certification for anyone who has completed the apprenticeship.​

For those that choose to specialise more in data management we have introduced bursaries to complete clinical data science programme provided by the University of Manchester and of course there are also data science related apprenticeships from Levels 2 - 7 that we can also encourage our colleagues to follow.​​

We are really looking forward to the availability of the Library Information and Knowledge Professional Level 7 apprenticeship.  This is currently in the final stages of development and approval with an anticipated availability date of December 2024.  This will offer a further opportunity for development and to retain our valuable talent.  Until then, NHS England, Workforce Training and Education, have put in place a bursary scheme to support para-professional staff that want to further develop their professional skills by enrolling on CILIP accredited postgraduate courses. ​

To find out more about apprenticeship opportunities within NHS knowledge and library services you can visit the CILIP apprenticeships page.  Take a look at the apprentice role resources and review the Skills for Health  Healthcare Apprenticeship (HASO) resources.

or arrange a conversation about career development opportunities with Clare Edwards and Alison Day who lead the work on the Knowledge for Healthcare Learning Academy and Workforce Planning, on [email protected].


Mrs Alison Day


Knowledge and Library Services Senior Manager