Inter-Library Loans / Document Delivery

Document delivery (also known as document supply or inter-library loans) is a service which is normally provided free of charge to the person who requests either a copy of an article, chapter or book although there will be exceptions to this.  

What do I need to know?

Inter-Lending and Document Supply, as it is referred to by Health Education England, is primarily divided between six geographically based networks of library services:

Each network has a rota of the other networks to whom it will go in turn to make document delivery requests – the library making the request would start within its own network first, then, following the rota list for its network, would contact each of the other networks in turn until the item is obtained.

HEE ILDS Network Rota
Source – HEE KLS Inter-Lending and Document Supply

If you have not been able to find what you are looking for via HEE’s geographical networks, there are two further networks of health libraries that can be tried:

Both networks are membership based, and libraries would need to be members in order to use them for document delivery requests. You would therefore need to make sure your library is member of the relevant network before making a request via it.

As a last resort for obtaining material without paying a copyright fee there is the HealthILL and LIS-ILL mailing lists. These should only be used when all other free avenues of obtaining material have been exhausted. Make sure you have fully read the instructions for making requests this way before going ahead.

If you are still unsuccessful, your next choice would be the British Library (BL).  It is advisable to check with your reader before requesting either a book or article from the BL as quite often there will be a fee to pay.  In addition to this you may require a signed copyright declaration before obtaining a copy – you can check whether this is the case or not by going to the Copyright Licensing Agency webpage for the NHS England copyright licence.

A signed copyright declaration will also be required if a request is for a member of staff who is not employed by the NHS or for a non-NHS library. Health Education England have provided full guidance for library staff on all aspects of document supply and copyright.

If you are unsuccessful with the British Library, an alternative you can try is Reprints Desk, which works along similar lines to the BL OnDemand service as a way of obtaining copyright fee paid items.

Health Education England have provided Good Practice Guidelines for inter-lending and document supply that cover a range of areas:

Where can I learn more?

Colleagues in your own service or local services will be able to help you.

Who can I contact?

Health Education England has published a list of useful contacts for both copyright and document delivery on a regional basis on its ILDS website.

Local colleagues as above via local networks or the Health Library and Information Services Directory HLISD (

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