2011 for NHS Libraries, as with all library sectors, was a monumental year. NHS Reforms from the Health and Social Care Bill (with ideas first mooted in Transforming Community Services) saw PCT’s begin to disband. Many members of staff (including Library staff) moved over to designated foundation, community or mental health trusts. Others stayed with the PCT’s, waiting to be transferred to the local Clinical Commissioning Groups or their Local Authorities (or even to redundancy). But for all the change that happened in 2011, 2012 promises to be a year of even more change, of new challenges and new opportunities.

In 2012, the NHS Reforms will truly begin to kick in. Services will merge, be streamlined, have budgets and in some cases will be cut. Library services within Public Health will move over into local authorities, and meet new challenges from access issues to tighter boundaries to partnerships with public libraries. Newly merged primary care and foundation libraries will need to create relationships and break down boundaries and established practice whilst moving forward – never an easy thing. There will be issues with training levies and education budgets – the future direction and responsibility may not be clear yet. There is the question of access for staff. Not all staff groups will have a library service; will evidence-based-practice flourish? Will NHS Evidence suffice? There are, no doubt, countless other challenges and confrontations I have ignored, not considered or am not aware of yet. Nationally, there is no real guidance – in comparison to other library sectors, do we have a voice? In the NHS White Papers and bills, the importance of evidence is mentioned – but how this evidence is provided, controlled and managed is not. As ever, library/knowledge provision is not directly recognised. This is not a pretty picture that has been painted, how will NHS Library services survive? By doing what we do:

  • Forward Thinking – Health Library services I believe are truly forward thinking – having to straddle both the ‘library’ and ‘health’ fields. Library services on the whole adapt, and adapt quickly to meet the changing needs of their users. Regionally, at least I feel this also the case strategically also.
  • Sharing – We are a sharing, caring bunch overall. Be it best practice or developments within a trust, the level of sharing (at least regionally) is something to be proud of. This allows us to be aware of new developments, both strategically and
  • Innovation – Even in the most affluent times in the NHS (if they ever existed), library services were never really near the front of the finance queue, and this coupled with a sometimes ‘difficult’ It framework has meant we’ve had to improvise when it comes to service provision. And so this is what we do. And do well. Examples include use of blogs, and wiki’s.
  • Co-operation – As well as sharing information, there is co-operation in health libraries. Examples of this include The Commissioning Handbook and the Horizon Scanning project from LIHNN. Joint projects help develop services and in some cases maintain services. This will be vital moving forward.
  • Service-based vs. Resource/Location-based – A good library service should not be about what it has, more what it can do.
  • And much, much more!

So, 2012, much like in the rest of the NHS, libraries, the world in general, NHS Libraries are in for a tough time. But I believe we will play to our strengths and continue to evolve and do what we do best: ‘helping people help people’. That’s my elevator speech ‘by the way.

Let me know what you think – whether you agree or disagree, or if I have missed something obvious!