Looking North: introducing Ruth Carlyle

How do you follow on from a legend? With the retirement of David Stewart, it is my very great pleasure to work with knowledge and library services in the North West, North East and Yorkshire. Thank you to Northern Lights for the opportunity to introduce myself and my role.

My name is Ruth Carlyle. I have always worked in health librarianship, but only joined the NHS on being appointed as Head of Knowledge and Library Services across the Midlands and the East of England in April 2017, extended to cover the North West, North East and Yorkshire from April 2021.

I completed my initial training as an information scientist in the pharmaceutical sector before moving into the voluntary sector, setting up, running and overseeing health information services. This included establishing the first bibliographic database on motor neurone disease and being part of the team that designed the training for the first cohort of multiple sclerosis specialist nurses. Immediately prior to joining Health Education England, I worked for Macmillan Cancer Support, developing cancer information and support services in partnership with the NHS.

As part of my wider professional activity, I am policy lead for the Health Libraries Group and I am a member of the newly-formed Policy Committee for CILIP. Having the right policy levers is important, as it enables us to influence local colleagues to ensure and develop the future of NHS knowledge and library services.

The geographic area that I and the team now cover stretches from Southend-on-Sea to Berwick-on-Tweed. It brings together 109 NHS knowledge and library services. This creates new opportunities for sharing learning. We have an HEE knowledge and library services development manager in each of the four regions we cover:

- Gil Young in the North West
- Joanne Naughton in the North East and Yorkshire
- Catherine McLaren in the Midlands
- Noel Cudden in the East of England

Dominic Gilroy acts as my deputy in the North and Clare Edwards is the deputy for the Midlands and the East of England. Jayne Lees acts as administrator for the team.

Members of the national knowledge and library services team all have national Knowledge for Healthcare programmes on which they work as well as acting as points of contact regionally. I work nationally on Health Literacy and Patient Information and also on Research.

Our Health Literacy and Patient Information activity includes both the development of resources and creation of partnerships to disseminate skills and increase access to high-quality patient, health and wellbeing information. Within the programme, we are creating a 5-year partnership in which the key players are CILIP, Libraries Connected, Arts Council England and HEE, with other players, including NHS England and voluntary sector providers, included in the workstreams. The aim is to work through public libraries and other information providers to increase the health and digital literacy skills of citizens. We lobbied NICE for the inclusion of health literacy skills (“Teach Back” and “Chunk and Check”) in the new NICE guidance on Shared Decision Making and we are collaborating with NICE on the potential of shared resources to support implementation of the guidance.

There are two dimensions to our research work: enabling NHS knowledge and library services staff to develop skills for their own research and to support researchers; and commissioning research to increase the evidence base for NHS knowledge specialists and health librarians. We are currently working on models to demonstrate the impact of knowledge mobilisation activity by NHS knowledge and library services.

For any of you who have noted that I am “Dr”, my PhD is on the politics of public involvement in decision-making in the NHS. You can find me as @RuthCarlyle on Twitter. In my life beyond work, I have a Diploma in Classical Singing (DipLCM) and my own record label, so appear as “Ruth Carlyle” on iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud and other platforms. I also write poetry and song lyrics. If you follow me on social media, photographs of Lichfield, where I live, tend to feature.

I look forward to getting to know knowledge and library services staff across the North West, North East and Yorkshire; and to learning more about local innovations and achievements.


Ruth Carlyle,

Head of Knowledge and Library Services (Midlands, East and North of England), Health Education England