The ask

In April 2020, the Leeds Community Healthcare (LCH) library team were asked to support the Weekly Health and Social Care Intelligence Reports that were being pulled together by Health and Care Evaluation Service (NHS Leeds CCG) and the Leeds Health Partnership Team (Leeds City Council).
These Intelligence Reports were established to support the Leeds COVID-19 Command and Control structure, and were intended to supply Health and Social Care GOLD with a summary of emerging evidence from other health care systems, cities and countries in the recovery phase of the COVID—19 pandemic.
At the start of the pandemic, the LCH library team added a daily COVID-19 digest, (featuring reports and guidelines, rather than new journal articles) to their longstanding current awareness offer.
The request to support GOLD Command went far beyond this existing service. It rapidly became clear that the request was too much for just one service. Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust (LTHT) library service kindly agreed to become part of the work.
The Intelligence Briefings were originally created on a weekly basis, which required very fast turnaround times. Over time, they became fortnightly, and also turned to more focussed and specialised themes, which reduced the pressure on the participating services.
We provided information from April to July 2020 and due to a change in priorities within Leeds City Council, the Intelligence Reports ceased in September 2020.

The technical bit

Setting up the initial search was challenging as the requester wanted information generally relating to service recovery / disaster recovery, but was unable to be more specific than that. In the early days of the pandemic it felt like they knew they needed information but couldn’t yet specify their exact requirements. We made use of the suggested COVID search strategies on the COVID-19 search bank and also looked at searches submitted to the bank for useful disaster recovery terms.
When we first started running these searches, there was very little published material relating to the recovery phase of COVID, and a sense that anything we could find may be useful for the requesters’ needs. As the work went on, the amount published on all aspects of COVID became overwhelmingly large, and filtering out a manageable amount of relevant material became the challenge. Dealing with a body of knowledge that developed and changed so rapidly over the course of the few months we worked on this project was an unprecedented challenge for us as librarians.
The librarians involved used MS Teams to co-ordinate the process. Being able to share documents and edit together made it easier to keep up to date and using the chat ensured that we weren’t inundated with emails.

The challenges and the learning

Although HDAS alerts were set up, these could not always be used in time for deadlines, as they did not appear regularly, despite being set up as weekly. They seemed to “slip” a little each week. The number of articles in the alerts was also limited to 100 so this method was soon unworkable due to the high volume of material being published. Eventually, we decided to manually re-run the search each week, export the articles to Excel and undertake de-duplication to identify the new information.
Given the extent of the rapidly increased COVID-19 evidence base, it will come as no surprise that the volume of articles retrieved was an issue. This obviously had a time implication when librarians were going through the searches filtering for relevant articles on a particular topic. With around 1000 articles a fortnight eventually being retrieved by the original search, filtering out the useful information, still without a clear focus, became increasingly time consuming until the decision was made to shift to more focussed themes for the briefing.
Selected articles were extracted using Excel, which allowed for rapid de-duplication by title. Excel downloads from HDAS do not include the full-text links to articles, but to our surprise, the recipient wasn’t at all bothered by this – she was more than happy to copy and paste the article details into Google to retrieve the articles (many were free pre-prints).
The requirement to run searches weekly for the Briefings was challenging in terms of capacity – we were not sorry when the Briefings started to be required on a fortnightly basis!

The learning and opportunities

Although LCH and LTHT libraries work in collaboration all the time through the Leeds Libraries for Health partnership, we had never worked jointly on literature searches before. The use of MS Teams for shared files was a great enabler for this, and being able to keep any “chat” about the searches helped to keep everything together in one place.
The pace of the work was really challenging, but it was fantastic to deliver the work as part of a team, and not to be doing it alone.
The COVID search bank was also really useful, both for COVID-19 specific searches terms, and also examples of searches on other topics (e.g. recovery). Over time, other services (e.g. The Strategy Unit at Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit) started to send out rapid reviews of COVID topics, and updates on recovery, which removed the need for some searching to be replicated by us.
Doing the work for GOLD Command definitely helped raise the profile of the library services. We were able to get acknowledgement of our work on the front page of the reports that went to Chief Executives. And certainly at LCH, the Chief Executive reported that they had spotted the team’s involvement.

A final thought

The Intelligence Reports were received far beyond the normal organisations that we are funded to serve. However, although it was stressful at the time, it was great to feel that as a joint LCH / LTHT response, we were helping to support the work of the city in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jenny Emmel, Corporate Support Librarian (job-share)
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
Helen Swales, Library Services Manager
Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust
Beth Tapster, Corporate Support Librarian (job-share)
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust