Frequently asked questions about copyright in the NHS.

What are the ‘plus’ features of the CLA Licence Plus for the NHS in England?

The CLA Licence Plus has two additional features:

  1. It includes an annual allocation of copyright-fee paid (CFP) articles, obtainable from Reprints Desk, British Library (BL) or the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) Library.
  2. It allows NHS staff working on projects with staff of non-NHS organisations to share copies under the terms of the CLA Licence, where the non-NHS organisation (collaboration partner”) has its own CLA Licence.

When and why would we need CFP articles?

These are useful when you cannot source an article from within the NHS and it is required for more than just private use, meaning a Library Privilege copy isn’t appropriate, or when the British Library or other non-NHS supplier cannot supply a Library Privilege copy.  Please see the decision tree or use the NHS Copy Aid at

CFP articles come unencrypted and become the property of the NHS in England, and thus can be stored and shared under the CLA Licence terms.

How do we request CFP articles?

We recommend that you request CFP articles via This service, provided by Reprints Desk on behalf of the CLA, automatically checks that the article requested can indeed by shared under the CLA Licence and hasn’t previously been requested by an NHS customer (if it has, it will be resupplied without charge).

When you log into the CLA Reprints Desk and search for the article, you will see its cost.  Please review this and if it is over £50, check with the user whether an alternative would meet the need.  We do this to ensure that we get the best value from the licence funding.

CFP articles can alternatively be requested from the British Library, using the second account your library has set up for this purpose: contact Jo Cox ([email protected]) if you have queries. A third source of CFP articles is the Royal Society of Medicine Library: email citation details to [email protected]  and state ‘article requested under the terms and conditions of the NHS in England CLA Licence Plus’. Note that the RSM can only supply CFP articles from journals they hold in print, not their online journals.

What is meant by a ‘collaboration partner’ and a ‘collaboration project’?

A collaboration partner is an organisation outside the NHS in England which the CLA has confirmed has its own CLA Licence, which is engaged with an organisation and/or staff in the NHS in England on a collaborative project. Examples include universities, charities, professional associations, research organisations and local authorities. NHS staff involved in the project can share copies from NHS-owned/subscribed to originals with them, and they can reciprocate with copies from originals they own/subscribe to. Before sharing copies with potential collaboration partners, check with the CLA that they have a Licence.

Do copies made and supplied under the CLA Licence have to be sent to NHS email addresses?

No. The person to whom you are supplying the copy must be covered by the CLA Licence. To verify their identity and eligibility, you will have expected them to provide an individual work/professional email address when registering to use your service and for an OpenAthens account. If for expedience they ask you to send a copy to an alternative individual email account, this is acceptable. Always accompany the copy with the statement that explains the copy has been supplied under the terms of the Licence and clarifies what further copying/storage is/is not allowed.

Is it possible to make copies for patients under the CLA Licence?

Yes. From April 2019, staff covered by the Licence may supply single digital or print copies patients, and the carers or guardians of patients, for their personal use. Recipients should be reminded that the copies should not be shared electronically: see page p.7 for the wording which healthcare staff should use when supplying copies. Digital copies may be particularly helpful for those who use software to read content aloud or magnify the content.

Are primary care staff and public health staff working for local authorities included under the CLA Licence for the NHS in England? 


Are hospice staff included under the CLA Licence? 


Are social care staff included under the CLA Licence?

Generally speaking, no - unless they are working for the NHS or as part of an integrated care team which is funded by the NHS. However, most local authorities have a CLA Licence, and if NHS staff are working on a collaboration project with social care staff, you can share copies between them under the CLA Licence (first check with the CLA that the authority in question does have a Licence). And again, you may make Library Privilege copies for social care staff.

Do we always have the back-up option of supplying Library Privilege copies?

Yes – but this is where the person you are supplying it to must still declare to you that the copy you are supplying is for their own private study or non-commercial research, and they may not make further copies. Obtain the declaration and use the second statement on p.7.

Is it true that where declarations are needed, they don’t need to be physically signed?

Yes. This follows an amendment to the copyright legislation in 2014. You have to receive the declaration in writing' but users can do this electronically (e.g. tick' to agree to a written statement on an electronic request form or website, or send an email confirming agreement with the declaration terms in relation to one or more articles in a list). See p.7 for suggested wording for the declaration.

Do declarations need to be kept?

You are advised to keep declarations for six years beyond the end of the year in which you supply the copy, just in case a copyright owner ever made a legal challenge. They may be stored in either paper or electronic format, but for data protection reasons must be stored securely.

Is it the case that Library Privilege copies may be made for other libraries from electronic journals, including those published outside the UK?

Yes. The updated Copyright Act allows libraries to copy small amounts of copyright works, for private study and non-commercial research, regardless of the format of the original. Under the Act, this is a fundamental right which cannot be limited by a contract, such as a publisher's licence.


Page last reviewed: 20 November 2023