The Current Awareness Service for Health (CASH) – harnessing the power of collaborative working

Libraries for Nursing Bulletin Vol 30(2)

Kath Williams
CASH Service Officer

Tel: 01246 225123
Fax: 01246 225151

Abstract: By offering current awareness services to their end-users, NHS libraries can add value to the organisations they serve. CASH is a national current awareness service which recently secured funding from the Strategic Health Authority Library Leads group. The collaborative service model and RSS technology offer an efficient and cost-effective way of delivering current awareness services within the NHS.

Introduction to Current Awareness

Current Awareness Services (CAS) are no longer a luxury or ‘optional extra’, but rather an essential component of all NHS library services. CAS offer multiple benefits to the end user:

  1. Taking the pain out of keeping-up-to-date
    • Saving clinicians time that they can then devote to the delivery of patient-centred care
    • Bringing information together into a single point of access, making it easier for health professionals to find the information they need. This is especially important given the volume of information now available online and the increased risk of ‘information overload’.
    • Ensuring that information is delivered in a timely way – where, when and how it is needed
    • Quality is assured by a team of qualified library and information professionals
  2. Contributing towards evidence based practice and ultimately to the quality of patient care
  3. Informing new service developments (health management)
  4. Enabling continuing professional development and lifelong learning

CAS can also increase the profile of the library itself, resulting in increased uptake of core services such as literature searching.

CASH – the Current Awareness Service for Health


CASH was initially launched in the East Midlands in 2004 under the name PCCAS – the Primary Care Current Awareness Service (see LfN Bulletin, Volume 26 Issue 1/2 and Volume 27, Issue 2/3). A successful funding application to the former National Library for Health enabled PCCAS to evolve into a national service, building on the firm foundations of Primary Care and extending its remit to cover two other key sectors – Mental Health and Secondary Care. The funding was subsequently withdrawn as part of the launch of NHS Evidence. As a consequence, CASH opened discussions with the Strategic Health Authority Library Leads (SHALL) group in October 2009, and made a successful bid for funding earlier this year. The funding agreement with SHALL includes engagement with the ten English SHA Library Leads, who will act as CASH Champions in their regions, encouraging their library staff to sign-up with the service to maximise coverage across the three sectors and numerous categories. Financial support from SHALL will enable the service to continue for the next two years and beyond, depending on the outcome of future funding applications.

Service Model

CASH is a collaborative service founded on the principle of ‘Do Once and Share’ (Hill, 2008). CASH therefore aims to adapt in-line with the needs of its contributors, who are very much involved in building the service – not a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

The main point of contact for CASH is the Service Officer, Kath Williams. Kath is based in Chesterfield and provides a central support service for contributors and end-users alike. CASH also has a dedicated Management Board – a team of library managers and information professionals with many years of experience in delivering current awareness services. The Management Board holds bimonthly meetings to discuss and monitor the progress of the service and, together with the Service Officer, ensure its continued quality and performance.

Service features

CASH is hosted on The Improvement Network (TIN) website: which provides the central infrastructure behind the service.

The hub of the service is a fully searchable online database. Health librarians from across England enter up to 15 items per month into the database for their chosen category. The information within the database then forms the basis of the CASH RSS newsfeeds.

As can be seen from the screenshot below, the database is searchable by Title, Author, Subject, Year of Publication, Category and Keywords.

There are currently 30+ categories within the database, including ‘Nursing’ and ‘Mental Health Nursing’.

CASH also plays host to a range of current awareness bulletins produced by NHS library services from around the country. For more information please see

CASH therefore combines two key elements in one service – the push-pull approach. Information and materials can be pulled, via the searchable online database and downloadable bulletins from across the 3 sectors, and pushed via the newsfeed and web 2 technology.

Getting involved

By donating just 2-3 hours of their time per month to CASH, contributors receive the following benefits:

Central infrastructure
The CASH database and RSS newsfeeds provide an established mechanism for the delivery of current awareness services.

Sharing of information
By entering items into a central and fully searchable online database, the information can be shared and re-used as a supplement to local current awareness initiatives.

Current awareness tools
Access to Zinepal (, which uses the content of RSS newsfeeds and blogs to create PDF bulletins. Content can be pulled from multiple sources, and the individual bulletins edited and reformatted as required.

Support network

A major benefit of collaborative working is the sharing of knowledge and expertise.


CASH combines collaborative working with RSS technology to offer an effective and pain-free method of delivering current awareness services within the NHS. The collaborative working model also helps to avoid duplication of effort – an important factor as we move into more financially challenging times. CASH is looking to expand the current network of contributors, and would welcome expressions of interest from health librarians from across the UK. Please contact Kath Williams


Hill, P. (2008) Report of a National Review of NHS Health Library Services in England: From knowledge to health in the 21st Century [Online]. Available at: report_4feb_081.pdf (Accessed: 13th April 2010)

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