Making the case for evidence-based patient information: the importance of evidence to support shared decision-making and how NHS libraries can play a key role

On behalf of Health Education England and as part of a Senior Leadership Programme, a group of health library and knowledge specialists across England worked together on a shared project exploring how evidence is used in the creation and review of information for patients.

The project titled, ‘Making the case: evidence-based patient information’ explores the real need for patients and the public to have access to high quality, reliable health information.

As individuals are being encouraged to self-manage and be partners in their care they need access to a range of resources tailored to their literacy level.

The aims of the project were:

  • influence and advocate the importance of evidence for health information for patients, carers and the public in healthcare settings
  • identify key learning to support others in influencing the evidence base of patient leaflets in their local NHS settings.

As health librarians, we play a key role in providing evidence for patient care as part of our service to healthcare staff.

We have skills in finding the evidence, appraising it and making it readily available in formats needed by our healthcare colleagues.

Image of two people standing in a ward discussing some patient information
A library professional in discussion with a clinician

The need for patient information to be evidence based is driven by a number of strategic priorities including:

  • patient experience
  • self-management
  • shared decision-making
  • health system sustainability

The project focused on the production of patient leaflets within NHS Trusts.  These are usually written by local clinical staff for specific conditions or procedures.

We were looking at the current level of involvement by NHS KLS in the production and review of leaflets and the key stakeholders who play a role in this process.

Information was gathered from case studies of three NHS Trusts, through telephone interviews with NHS librarians delivering and supporting the production of patient information and a literature search on good quality patient information.

The findings of the work are outlined in the report, along with other useful resources highlighting:

  • importance of KLS role in supporting evidence-based information
  • key policy drivers
  • influencing key stakeholders
  • challenges of clinical language.

The report makes a number of recommendations including making patient information a part of our ‘offer’ as a service forming part of KLS existing role as champions of evidence-based practice within their organisations.

Key themes from the case studies and learning from networks were the significance of influencing skills and the importance of demonstrating the impact of this work and sharing best practice.


Contact the Knowledge for Healthcare team on [email protected] for any of the resources in an accessible format.

There are other examples of best practice, highlighted to demonstrate the positive impact NHS libraries have experienced. It is another aspect of the work many NHS libraries are already engaged in as part of patient care.

If you have any queries about the project please contact a member of the project team:

Emily Hopkins, Health Education England
Deena Maggs, The King’s Fund
Victoria Treadway, NHS RightCare
Vicki Veness, Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Jacqui Watkeys, Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust
Suzanne Wilson, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

Page last reviewed: 15 June 2021