NHS knowledge and library services policies

Policies relevant to NHS funded knowledge and library services

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Strategic context

Health Education England (HEE) is responsible for working with partners to educate and train the health workforce. As part of that responsibility it sets strategic direction and quality assurance of NHS knowledge and library services in England, and for HEE distributes education tariff to NHS organisations contributing to the funding of NHS knowledge and library services.

Implementing the Knowledge for Healthcare strategy, the HEE Executive has approved guidance and policy recommendations for NHS Knowledge and Library Services in England.

“Knowledge is business critical because excellent healthcare and health improvement are underpinned by informed decision-making. As the strategic lead for NHS knowledge and library services on behalf of the system, Health Education England is committed to a compelling ambition to drive transformation and success across the healthcare system”

The ambition is that: “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.” Knowledge for Healthcare, 2021

Requirements of placement providers

The NHS Education Contract 2021-24 is the mechanism by which HEE entrusts Providers to undertake healthcare education and training activities.

Schedule 1: LIBRARY AND KNOWLEDGE SERVICES (PLACEMENT PROVIDERS) sets out requirements, including:

14.1 There is an expectation that Placement Provider organisations within every health system will work together to make sure that all NHS Staff and learners can benefit from proactive knowledge and library services.

14.2 The Placement Provider will ensure that there is a proactive, high-quality knowledge and library service that is available to all Staff and learners, whether this is hosted internally, delivered via a managed service level agreement with another NHS Provider or with a Higher Educational Institute

14.4 The Placement Provider will ensure that the clinical decision support tool, funded and provided nationally by HEE for all learners and NHS Staff, is actively promoted to underpin clinical decision-making.

14.5 The Placement Provider will participate in agreed quality assurance processes to review progress against the HEE Quality and Improvement Outcomes Framework for NHS Funded Library and Knowledge Services in England

14.8 The Placement Provider will ensure that there is an appropriate level of Funding, both from education tariff and matched employer contributions, to support delivery of proactive, high-quality knowledge services.

NHS Library and Knowledge Services in England Policy

The NHS Library and Knowledge Services in England Policy was approved by the Health Education England Executive on the 29th November 2016.

The policy sets out our approach to delivering on the key objective of enabling access to knowledge and evidence for healthcare decision makers. 


In the policy Health Education England commits to: 

  • Developing NHS library and knowledge specialists to use their expertise to mobilise evidence obtained from research and organisational knowledge to underpin decision-making in the National Health Service in England
  • Enabling all NHS workforce members to freely access library and knowledge services so that they can use the right knowledge and evidence to achieve excellent healthcare and health improvement
  • Developing NHS library and knowledge services into a coherent national service that is proactive and focused on the knowledge needs of the NHS and its workforce

Recommendations to improve the staff ratio

The NHS Knowledge and Library Services in England published its 'recommendations to improve the staff ratio for the number of qualified library and knowledge specialists per member of NHS workforce policy' in November 2019.

The NHS requires proactive knowledge services as business-critical instruments of informed decision-making.

Currently there is significant variation in the ratio of qualified library and knowledge specialists to healthcare staff.

This leads to inequitable service provision across England and the Service is not uniformly able to draw on evidence for decision-making. 

By introducing a recommended staff ratio Health Education England is enabling individual organisations to identify and address that risk. 

This policy makes a set of recommendations through which trusts and arm’s length bodies may look to ensure, and where necessary continuously build, improved staffing levels.  


  1. To optimise the benefits for the NHS of the emerging new roles for librarians and knowledge specialists, HEE recommends that all NHS organisations:
    • review regular reports of the positive impact of the library and knowledge service on outcomes
    • work with the local library service manager to prioritise allocation of clinical librarian, knowledge manager and other embedded roles to specialities
    • take incremental steps to improve the staff ratio between qualified librarians and knowledge managers per member of the NHS workforce, through role redesign and by expanding this specialist workforce
  2. HEE recommends that over time, all NHS organisations aspire to achieving a much-improved staffing ratio.
  3. HEE recommends that those NHS organisations with a staffing ratio in the region of the current average of 1 qualified librarian to 1,730 or more healthcare staff, strive to achieve a ratio of at least 1 qualified librarian or knowledge specialist per 1,250 WTE NHS staff.
  4. HEE commits to monitoring the staff ratios annually and to reviewing the recommended ratio in three years’ time.

Organisations are invited to contact their regional HEE Knowledge and Library Services Lead for support [email protected].

Learning space within NHS Knowledge and Library Services in England

Published on 4th January 2021​

There are two key recommendations in the policy​:

  1. The library study and wellbeing space should be available to all staff, educators and learners both during and outside the working hours of the knowledge and library services team.
  2. The library service space should be developed, managed by the knowledge and library services staff, to ensure value through enabling organisational innovation, and meeting the changing needs of healthcare staff, learners and educators in relation to study and reflection, health and well-being, collaboration, and as a technology hub.

Focus on library space for:​

  • Self-directed learning: reflection and private study​
  • The best place to work: health and wellbeing​
  • Collaborative working and learning​
  • Digital skills and innovation: technology hub

Psychological support for embedded librarians

Published on 4th January 2021​

There are three recommendations:​

  • NHS organisations ensure that the psychological well-being of librarians and knowledge specialists working in clinical environments is considered. ​

  • NHS organisations extend existing arrangements for the multi-disciplinary team to include clinical librarians and knowledge specialists. ​

  • Access to psychological wellbeing services provided within the organisation is highlighted to embedded librarians and knowledge specialists working in clinical environments. 

Page last reviewed: 21 June 2021