This new service, first announced in Lord Darzi’s Next Stage Review, will transform access and understanding of high-quality health and social care evidence.
It will provide accreditation for sources of information, open access to the benefits of utilising evidence and present opportunities to support the use of evidence. It will also, for the first time, provide a central gateway for practitioners and other users to easily access the world of health and social care information.
The principle aim of NHS Evidence will be to provide easy access to a comprehensive evidence base for everyone in health and social care who makes decisions about treatments or the use of resources.
It will inform patient care, commissioning and service management. Clinical and professional networks have been central to the development of NHS Evidence and will continue to be strongly involved as it matures and develops.
A single portal
Anyone currently wanting to access the breadth of health and social care information uses a variety of Web-based tools to try and find appropriate information for their field, whether it be clinical, commissioning, service development or treatments.
NHS Evidence will provide a single portal to international, national and local evidence and experience in a systematic and transparent way. The key benefit of using the portal will be easy single access to best practice.
NHS Evidence will be introducing detailed referencing of information, which will make it easier for knowledge managers and practitioners to find and prioritise the information that they are looking for.
The portal will develop over time and will have a number of releases that gradually enhance the user experience with increased functionality and availability of information.
NHS Evidence will not be producing information – rather it will act as a gateway to professionally developed, internationally recognised accredited evidence.
As part of the new service, the National Library for Health (NLH) will become part of NHS Evidence – gradual changes to the NLH website will take place over the next 6-12 months as it becomes incorporated into the new service.
From the NHS Evidence portal, users will also be able to access links to other related health and social care websites such as NHS Choices and NHS Direct. Users will be able to personalise the portal for special interest topics and new evidence alerts.
Pharmacists, for example, will be able to access their field of specialist information via NHS Evidence, which will grant them access to the global information world via a comprehensive one-stop system. It will not provide new information, but act as a gateway to clinically appropriate information that users can have confidence in.
The accreditation system
NHS Evidence will also, for the first time, establish an accreditation system aimed at instilling user confidence in the sources of information it presents. Sources of information approved through the accreditation process will be awarded an easily identifiable accreditation marque so that users can instantly recognise reliable and trustworthy information.
The accreditation system will be administered and overseen by an accreditation advisory committee, and will include expert peer review as part of the accreditation process. The draft process is currently out for public consultation and can be found via the NICE website (www.nice.org.uk).
The accreditation process will:
- Be implemented in phases, with the first wave concentrating on guidance producers;
- Contribute to raising the standard of health and social care information by ensuring sources have clear, professional and rigorous presses in place to develop evidence;
- Be easy to apply for, but will involve a strong accreditation process including expert peer review;
- Apply to local, national and international evidence.
Successful accreditation will last for three years and allow the information source the contractual use of an accreditation marque for that time.
This will enable users to easily identify an accredited source and have confidence in the process used to produce the guidance. Accreditation will improve the source’s standing in health and social care, draw more attention to, and inspire confidence in, the information it provides
NHS Evidence will be provided by NICE in terms of governance, but will have its own structure, resources and branding. The organisation becomes formally established on 1 April 2009, when NLH staff are due to be transferred, and the portal will go live on 30 April 2009 at www.evidence.nhs.uk
Dr Gillian Leng is Chief Operating Officer for NHS Evidence.