Use these guidelines conjunction with any regional/local guidelines.
Last updated: 18 July 2023

1. General principles 

ILDS services should be operated with the following in mind: 

  • striving for excellent customer service 

  • optimal use of NHS owned resources 

  • cost effective, e.g. using free sources before costed ones, but also taking into account staff time 

  • digital by default 

  • streamlined, making use of shared and interoperable systems where possible 

  • CLA Licence and copyright legislation 

  • data protection legislation 

2.  Copyright 

See the copyright section for guidance on when you can supply copies under the CLA Licence, when to supply copies under 'library privilege', and when to obtain copyright fee paid copies.  See also appendices A and B

Remember that 'library privilege' overrides publisher licences, so libraries may supply single fair copies to other libraries from any copyright work, provided an end-user declaration is obtained.  

3.  Data protection 

Data protection principles – in particular the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – must be observed when processing personal data for ILDS purposes. Check with your trust/organisation lead for guidance on data protection to be sure that you are abiding by the principles. 

4. Searching for items

Taking into account the general principles above, the choice of sources may be as follows.

The order in which to approach them will vary according to local arrangements.

When approaching specific libraries in your own network or others, take note of any temporarily unable to supply.


INCDocs provides links to the PDF of articles available in nationally, regionally or locally subscribed content and the functionaility to request articles from the electronic holdings of other NHS organisations.

Organisations with holdings are selected randomly. More information may be found on the service desk.


The order in which sources for document supply should be used:

  1. Electronic journals available in your organisation via INCDocs.
  2. Electronic holdings available in other NHS organisations via INCDocs.
  3. Print holdings available in your own organisation.
  4. Print holdings from other collaborative networks:
    • INC scheme collaborative networks - check that the library from which you are requesting is participating in the INC scheme
    • subscription-based collaborative networks such as NULJ and PLCS
    • other local non-NHS collaborative networks
  5. HealthILL and LIS-ILL mailing lists.
  6. Costed services for 'library privilege' such as the British Library (BL).
  7. Costed services for Copyright Fee Paid such as Reprints Desk, the BL, and the Royal Society of Medicine (Reprints Desk are able to supply e-pubs).

Copyright fee paid articles can be shared in the same way as articles supplied under the CLA licence, i.e. in cases where both the user is eligible under the licence and the publication is covered by the licence. The decision tree is a helpful guide.

Do not use LIS-MEDICAL. Use general mailing lists only if permitted on those lists, and only as a last resort.

When selecting locations within networks, where all else is equal, select locations equitably and not always ‘the first in the list’.

Page last reviewed: 1 December 2023