Dr Gillian Leng explains how healthcare professionals can use this web-based portal to access a wide range of evidence that supports the delivery of high-quality care

Keeping knowledge and skills up to date is a professional responsibility that all GPs accept. Unfortunately, the means by which this is achieved is not always straightforward. Healthcare is a complex and rapidly changing business. In order for healthcare and social care professionals to deliver the best possible care to patients, it is essential that the latest evidence is readily available to them. It was with this in mind that NHS Evidence was developed, to encourage evidence-based practice by providing free access to health and social care information quickly and easily.1 This service was announced as part of Lord Darzi’s strategy for the future of the NHS, High quality care for all,2 which identified a clear need for better access to information in order for NHS staff to deliver the highest quality care.

Why use NHS Evidence

In April 2009, NHS Evidence (www.evidence.nhs.uk) was launched as a resource to ensure that everyone working in healthcare and social care has worldwide access to the best available information, via a single portal, to inform decisions made about treatments and resources.1 Rather than going to several different places for information, NHS Evidence allows users to search over 150 databases simultaneously, including internationally respected evidence-based sources, such as the Cochrane Library, British National Formulary, and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Athens account holders can also search a number of healthcare databases and subscription journals that have been purchased for NHS staff in England.1

Resources accessible via NHS Evidence include:

  • guidelines
  • drug information
  • systematic reviews
  • primary research
  • grey literature (unpublished reports, articles, and abstracts).

Organisations within the NHS can download a search bar that allows staff to access all the information available via NHS Evidence without leaving their work website or intranet.

The NHS Evidence portal is as easy to use as other popular internet search engines, with the added benefit of only returning results from credible medical sources. Searches can be as broad as a single condition, such as asthma, or may include a complicated search string. A navigation menu on the left-hand side of the window allows all searches to be refined quickly by area of interest, type of information, clinical queries, sources, and medicines and devices. A short form on the right-hand side allows search results to be shared easily with colleagues via email.1

No registration is required to use NHS Evidence–it is open to anyone. This means that GPs can confidently direct expert patients (those who are using the internet to research their condition) to NHS Evidence for more detailed and reliable information. An optional registration, also free, provides access to ‘My Evidence’. This allows the user to create a personal homepage, which provides updates that are tailored to specific interests as well as allowing searches to be saved. This facility will also inform the user when new evidence has been added to any saved search strings.1

In addition to the search engine facility, other features aimed at raising standards of care are available, including:

  • the NHS Evidence Accreditation Scheme
  • NHS Evidence—Quality and Productivity
  • the Eyes on evidence e-bulletin.

NHS Evidence Accreditation Scheme

The NHS Evidence Accreditation Scheme recognises high standards in the production of guidance.

Organisations that have fulfilled the criteria for high-quality information are awarded the NHS Evidence Accreditation Mark, which can be displayed on relevant guidance as a quality standard (see right). This mark is also used on the NHS Evidence portal to help users identify the most trusted sources of information.1

The accreditation mark is awarded for 3 years, however, within this period the relevant processes are reviewed regularly. Accreditation decisions are made by an independent advisory committee, which includes healthcare and social care staff.

NHS Evidence—Quality and Productivity

The NHS Chief Executive, David Nicholson, has highlighted the need to link quality and productivity as the most important challenge facing the NHS today.3 The Department of Health’s Quality and Productivity project has been designed to help NHS organisations make the necessary savings without compromising quality of care and services. As part of this initiative, NHS Evidence—Quality and Productivity provides access to evidence on how to improve quality and productivity within the NHS, including examples of innovative local practices.1

NHS Evidence Accreditation Mark

NHS Accreditation

Eyes on evidence e-bulletin

A free monthly e-bulletin, Eyes on evidence, encourages the use of evidence-based healthcare by highlighting new evidence, explaining what it means in a clinical context, and how it might impact on practice and/or resources.1 This work is supported by the NHS Evidence Specialist Collections, led by specialist teams in key areas such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and commissioning, which filter the vast quantity of published research and provide regular updates on relevant sources of information as well as reviewing new publications. To sign up to the bulletin, visit: www.evidence.nhs.uk/newsletterSignup.aspx

Conclusion

Determining the clinical implications of the latest research is vital to the successful implementation of evidence-based medicine, which is why NHS Evidence is being developed closely with front-line staff. Encouraging the use of evidence-based medicine is not simply about adapting to change, but identifying the need for, and initiating improvements in care. Ideally, the practical implications of evidence will, in turn, feed back into future research programmes so that the development of medical knowledge moves forward in line with the needs of front-line staff and patient care.

If you have any questions or feedback on NHS Evidence, please email us at: contactus@evidence.nhs.uk

The practical benefits of NHS Evidence for GPs

NHS Evidence provides:

  • free access to evidence-based information to inform decision making and support professional development
  • better access to information about new products (e.g. drugs, devices, services)
  • added confidence in guidance information via an accreditation system
  • the latest information on clinical trials
  • proof of evidence-based decisions, which can be used to keep CPD files up to date
  • monthly alerts about new evidence via an e-bulletin, Eyes on evidence
  • advice on making cost savings without compromising quality of care
  • regular updates on latest evidence in user-selected topic areas
CPD=continuing professional development
  1. NHS Evidence website. www.evidence.nhs.uk
  2. Department of Health, Lord Darzi. High quality care for all. NHS next stage review final report. London: DH, 2008. www.dh.gov.uk/en/publicationsandstatistics/publications/publicationspolicyandguidance/DH_085825
  3. Department of Health. Implementing the next stage review visions: the quality and productivity challenge. Dear colleague letter. Available at: www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Lettersandcirculars/Dearcolleagueletters/DH_104239
  4. NHS Choices. www.nhs.uk (accessed 6 January 2010). G