Introducing the NHS Evidence Specialist Collections

Libraries for Nursing Bulletin Vol 30(3-4)

Elly O’Brien
Information Resources Librarian,
Library and Surgical Information Services,
The Royal College of Surgeons of England,
35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields,
London WC2A 3PE

Eli Bastin
Information Specialist
The Knowledge Centre
Bodleian Health Care Libraries
Oxford University
Old Road Campus Research Building


NHS Evidence ( was launched in April 2009 to provide easy access to freely available, high quality health and social care information using a simple Google-style search.

The 34 NHS Evidence specialist collections were transferred from the old National Library for Health. From April 2011 these will be technically integrated in to the main NHS Evidence search portal to provide users with a seamless and enhanced experience.

As well as a technical integration, NHS Evidence is also introducing a new management model for the Specialist Collections. Currently staff are dispersed geographically across a number of organisations; the new model will see staff collocated in three “evidence hubs”. This will lead to a greater consistency in output, therefore an overall improvement in the quality and reliability of content. Increased efficiency will also mean that the quantity and frequency of value-added output such as Annual Evidence Updates will increase.

What we do

The Specialist Collections provide resources to specialist communities and complement the sources added to NHS Evidence centrally, such as Cochrane and CRD records. They cover clinical subjects such as cancer and stroke, specific patient groups such as later life and women’s health, and aspects of health services, such as commissioning and health management. You can see the complete list of specialist collections here:

Information specialists working for the Specialist Collections keep the quality-assured content up to date by adding subject-specific metadata to centralised content such as Cochrane systematic reviews and supplementing this content with manual trawling of thousands of specialist sources.

The Specialist Collections produce original content, including Annual Evidence Updates (AEUs). These have a reference document (usually NICE guidance), and then provide readers with a bibliography of research published since the guidance was issued. Many of the collections also include value-added expert commentaries to enhance the AEU.

The UK Database of Uncertainties of the Effects of Treatments (DUETs), available at, aims to help direct research funding by highlighting areas where uncertainties about treatments exist. All of the Specialist Collections staff work to identify records for DUETs, and users are also encouraged to submit any suggestions for inclusion to the database.

The main strength of the Specialist Collections is the collaborative nature of their work. Information professionals work alongside clinical leads and topic advisors to complement each other’s skills and knowledge. Close relationships with external stakeholders are maintained via email newsletters, conference attendance and regular meetings. The Specialist Collections are driven by the information needs of healthcare professionals.

Specific examples for nursing

The collections include material useful to all healthcare professionals, with additional material tailored to particular groups.

There are extensive CPD resources in the collections. The Kidney and Male Urogenital Disorders Collection links to British Medical Journal Learning resources, which will be useful for nurses who want to earn CPD points. The Surgery, Anaesthesia, Perioperative and Critical Care Collection includes resources such as the British Association of Critical Care Nurses’ guide on ‘How to get published – seven easy steps’.

What we can do for you

All of the Specialist Collections produce promotional materials such as postcards and information sheets. If these would be of use in training sessions or on leaflet stands in your library, you can contact staff via the “contact us” section on our individual homepages.

The Specialist Collections offer original high quality content and subject-specialist resources such as free and Athens controlled e-journal lists and e-books, which are useful resources for library users.  An example of one of these lists can be seen here:

The future

The contracts for the Evidence Hubs are currently in the procurement stage. We hope to write a follow-up article for the Libraries for Nursing Bulletin to keep you up to date with developments in these areas.

(All links last accessed 7th December 2010)

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