Ben Skinner, Head of Knowledge, Libraries and Learning Technology
Knowledge for healthcare
In 2004 I started work at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals in the Knowledge and Library Service. Every day in the NHS more than a million decisions are made by clinicians and managers to improve peoples’ lives, and knowledge and library services help ensure these decisions are the right ones. We provide access to research evidence and help translate knowledge into practice. We give colleagues the gift of time by making it easier to learn, to improve, to discover and to decide, so there is more time to care.
One of my first jobs at BSUH was to develop a system of personalised current awareness, alerting colleagues to useful new publications. Current awareness is traditionally provided through broad topic bulletins, but this was to be a database of members’ professional interests that could match people with publications in a more targeted and specific way. It was to be named KnowledgeShare.
Personalised evidence updates
It took a lot of self-directed learning, but by 2006 I had developed KnowledgeShare in Microsoft Access. It could store people’s interests, automatically generate individual current awareness emails and send these via Outlook. These “evidence updates” were a success and over the next five years the recipient list grew to over three thousand staff, each receiving short, personalised emails specifically relevant to them. As one former Chief of Safety put it: “You know me better than Amazon!”
We then extended KnowledgeShare to improve other services. The evidence reports knowledge specialists produce to answer clinical and managerial questions could now be managed through the system. Our information skills training was added a few years’ later.
KnowledgeShare goes online
There are over 160 NHS knowledge and library services in the country and, by 2011, others were interested in using KnowledgeShare. Unfortunately, our home-grown Access database wasn’t good enough to share, so I began work on the next phase: re-developing KnowledgeShare as a web application.
Working with an external software company, Maldaba Ltd, we took the principles of the system and created an online service that could be licensed to other organisations. The evidence updates produced in Sussex could now be shared with colleagues across England with minimal work from local teams. Evidence reports written by a knowledge specialist in one trust became available to knowledge specialists elsewhere, allowing work to be shared as never before.
KnowledgeShare hits the road
In September 2013, ten years ago this month, we launched KnowledgeShare on the web. Elaine Watson, the co-creator of the web application, began travelling the country to train knowledge and library teams on its use. Surrey and Sussex Healthcare was the first to licence the system, with East Sussex Healthcare close behind. Feedback from other teams has been phenomenal, with knowledge specialists telling us that the system saves considerable time and makes it easier to produce reports to inform decision-making, professional development and research.
A couple of years later, Health Education England published Knowledge for Healthcare, a plan to develop knowledge and library services for the future. The ambition was to make knowledge services business-critical and to build on their strengths and improve them. KnowledgeShare supported these goals, and trusts that licensed it (twenty-five by 2015) could better meet HEE quality outcomes. Shortly afterwards, HEE began co-funding the service.
“We are happy that having KnowledgeShare will allow librarians to get away from their desks into clinical settings and save valuable time for ourselves and clinicians.”
- Library and Knowledge Services Lead, Wirral University Teaching Hospital
Since 2015, the number of organisations licensing KnowledgeShare has expanded into all regions of England and into Wales. As of September 2023, the system is in use by over 120 knowledge and library services, representing around three quarters of the country. There are 76,000 staff receiving personalised evidence updates and the number is growing all the time.
Our award-winning KnowledgeShare team of Rachel Playforth, Clare Thornalley, Ellie Brown and Ceri-Ann Morgan keeps the service running and supports our customers. We never stop developing and improving, with more advanced functionality on the way.
In future I hope KnowledgeShare will not only connect people with publications, but with colleagues who share their professional interests. The recent Hewitt Review of integrated care systems challenged ICSs to become “self-improving systems enabling innovation and imaginative solutions”, an intention that places knowledge sharing at the heart of NHS improvement.