The inaugural meeting to discuss the potential development of a new SIG titled HEALTH AND LIBRARIES took place in Liverpool January 2016 in the John Lennon Art & Design building Liverpool John Moores University LJMU. 

Attendees included: 

Dr Malcolm Rigler, Dr Simon Abrams, John Campbell, Moira Kenny, Dr Robert MacDonald, Andy Wright, Susan J. Thomas, Jill Beswick, Liz Stafford, Rachel Byron, Jayne Plant, Cath Shea, Matthew Wheeler, Sue Cook, Anna NBDT. The meeting was organised by Dr Malcolm Rigler and facilitated by The Sound Agents.


One of the most important responsibilities of the GP and the GP practice is to ensure that patients are given: “information in language and terms that they can understand”. 

In fact  this is one of the key responsibilities listed by the GMC  in the document "duties of a doctor".  

Over recent decades the Health Education Authority ( HEA) –  the Pharmaceutical Industry , some NHS GPs and Hospital  Consultants and NHS Trusts, writers of health and social care books, health  charities and self help organisations and many others have all been writing leaflets, booklets and books to support the GP in his/her attempt to share health and social care information with patients and carers.  

There is now such a profusion of leaflets, books, video films, CDs, sound tapes and  more recently websites that no GP or GP practice could possibly hold all this material together  or even know of its existence. 

As a result patients and carers continue  to complain more and more loudly that 'the doctor did not explain anything to me' or quite often 'the doctor tried to explain things to me but I did not understand a word that he said'.  

There is now such a   profusion of information sources and learning materials that  many people believe that  the development of a “Libraries and Health” partnership is long overdue. 

Only libraries and librarians can ensure that up-to-date , good  quality health and social care information can be brought together and made available to patients and carers when it is needed. The  librarians professionalism , their  skills in archiving material and the use of ICT are crucial in this regard.  

At  present making  sure that “the right information" reaches "the right patient or carer" at the "right time” continues to be just an   aspiration within the GP community. 

It now seems clear that with  careful planning and political commitment  the development of “Health and Social Care  library services”, including  ICT serviceswithin libraries  could soon become a reality.  

It is also possible, using the new technologies , to make sure that health and social care information is available in  many different languages. 

Many people are now seeing this development to be just  as important as the provision of clean water to every household in the UK 

Ensuring that the “Libraries and Health” partnership  really does lead to the changes needed will require change and development both within UK Hospital and GP practice and within the Library Service. 

We shall also need the support of  the Legal Profession to secure "statutory standards of library provision" as already exists in Wales 

Changes needed  in the Medical Practice.  

  • Doctors  to become aware of,  and respond to  their patients learning needs. 

  • Doctors  to alter consultation style to signpost patients to better information sources and to write:

  •  "prescriptions  for information" 

  • Doctors  waiting rooms to be the start of the journey towards learning.  The  environment of the GP practice needs to encourage questioning whilst at the same time signposting patients to the library  service that can respond to questions. This will need to be a joint "medical/nursing/community education" development.  

  • Development of  CCG Commissioning   to support the above i.e. patient and carer learning and self  management.  

Changes needed in the Community Library Service.  

Libraries need  to learn  from the "exercise on prescription scheme"  and the need to focus on “meeting and greeting” patients and carers who may not have ever  entered a  library before and who did not enjoy their school days.  

Library developments to be in close partnership with education professionals:  

  • Need to alter the  environment  both outside and inside the library to be more welcoming of NHS service users.

  • Need to employ  “explainers”  - usually nurses skilled in “guided web-surfing” as is now being offered at  Maggies Cancer Care Centres. 

  • Need for crèche and rooms/venues for group meetings / place for tea/coffee /toilets / free car parking  

  • Development of online  “Libraries and Health”  website for each administrative area with  links to  all  or most languages  spoken and read in the UK

  • Need to develop international links with Libraries Eg: Harare led by Pettina Gappah  Chief Librarian and former Civil Rights Lawyer in Geneva.  Dr Malcolm Rigler 2015       

                                    This project is created jointly by THE SOUND AGENTS & PARTNERS IN HEALTH (Midland) Ltd