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Libraries, whether medical or healthcare, in higher education (HE) institutions or the National Health Service (NHS), provide services to all types of healthcare students and professionals. Many of these are delivered through contracts, in the form of service-level agreements, between the two key organizations. The challenge to librarians is ensuring that users are provided with access to the resources they need and the skills to use those resources to the benefit of a patient-centered environment. External drivers such as developments in education, a continuously modernizing health service, and new technology have influenced the development of services. Issues regarding the access to electronic information for the different user groups still exist. Librarians have to support the differing user groups, who may have varying levels of computer and library skills, and provide skills training on a wide variety of resources from their own institution and from nationally provided content.
The dual use of health libraries by practitioners and students has been a recognized practice going back many years, although there is very little documentation to support it. What there is often describes the establishment of multidisciplinary library services in UK National Health Service (NHS) Trust hospitals, such as that described by Sue Childs (1996), or partnership arrangements between higher education (HE) institutions and NHS Trusts (Black and Bury, 2004).
Health professionals, both clinical and nonclinical, whether practitioners or students, require access to library and information services throughout their education, training, and continuing professional development. These services are primarily provided by libraries in the health care and higher education sectors. The changes that have taken place, many of which are still ongoing, in the NHS and in healthcare education in the UK have made major impacts on libraries and on the services they deliver and have raised the expectations of their users.
Medical and other staffs working in the NHS require access to libraries for their day-to-day work, for educational purposes, for research, and for the planning of services. Many professions working in the health service are required to attain further skills and qualifications for career advance. The NHS also undertakes a great deal of primary research, independently or in collaboration with higher education. Information is also essential for management decision making, with the current emphasis on clinical governance.
The education of health professionals primarily takes place within the higher education sector but relies heavily on the NHS for the practical aspects, whereby clinicians often deliver training and students observe and practice. Healthcare education has seen a fundamental change in recent years following the transfer of nurse education into the academic sector, where students can take either a diploma or degree course, lasting three and four years respectively, to qualify as a nurse. Education is provided by universities, with placements in local hospital and community settings. The course is 50 percent practical and 50 percent theoretical. A Common Foundation Programme is followed by a chosen speciality in adult, children's, mental health, or learning disability nursing. Midwifery education is also provided at diploma or degree level, and allied health professionals such as physiotherapists and radiographers follow similar courses. All these students at various stages of their placements will use the libraries of the hospitals to which they are attached.
RECENT CHANGES IN THE EDUCATION OF HEALTH PROFESSIONALS
The education of nurses has seen profound changes. "Project 2000" (UKCC on Nursing Midwifery and Health Visiting, 1987) was introduced in the 1990s to give nurse education a higher academic content resulting in a new diploma to replace the old State Registered Nurse (SRN) and State Enrolled Nurse (SEN) qualifications. This required an amalgamation of small schools of nursing into fewer, but larger, institutions, often in liaison with existing polytechnics. The change from polytechnics to universities in 1992 embedded nurse education more firmly within higher education. It thus became a degree-based profession with training commissioned by Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs), and a portion of the course is based within NHS hospitals. The most recent changes followed the publication of the UK government report Making a …