Funding cuts are the ever-present worry in NHS libraries, forcing Library Managers to constantly re-evaluate how we deliver services with limited resources.  And for those of us in the even smaller niche of NHS libraries who still run Health Promotion Resource centres in tandem with Public Health and Local Authorities (there are just a few of us nationally) the threat of funding cuts can be even more existential and dramatic since bankruptcy feels right behind the corner.

Just few months ago our Health Promotion Service and Resource centre, one of these few, faced that very threat: a total cut in funding for the current Service Level Agreement that would sweep away 14 years of support and expertise in public health messages across our District.  Here's how we navigated that challenge and emerged stronger and a personal look back on the steps we took to secure our funding. 

Understanding the threat: We began by thoroughly understanding the council's reasoning behind the potential cuts and liaising with our Finance department. Were there overall budget constraints? Concerns about our performance? Did they understand the consequences of this cut? By inviting Public Health representative to visit our library and requesting clarification, we gained valuable insights that would guide our response.

Data-driven and impact advocacy: Numbers speak volumes. We compiled data showcasing the positive impact of our organization on activities run across the District. We gathered testimonials and any metrics that demonstrate the value we deliver to the community. We reached out to stakeholders who used our services, including user groups, charities, advocacy groups and public health members. By uniting these voices, we amplified our message to the council.

Highlighting consequences: We presented in black and white the consequences this “saving” would have to the council. For example, disparities in health outcomes could widen, as those already facing accessibility challenges would lose a trusted and free source of information and support, or that Public health campaigns would lack the library's extensive reach and trusted community presence, potentially reducing their effectiveness and impact. At the same time, we demonstrated a willingness to adapt and be efficient in order to strengthen our position and mirror Local Authority’s priorities.
Negotiation: Once we had presented our case in a report, we were prepared to negotiate and explore new funding streams collaboratively with the council.

The Outcome
Through this approach, we were able to have the Service Level Agreement renewed, a great victory since the bankruptcy shadow looms over the council. This experience highlighted the importance of proactive communication and shout out how our library team and knowledge services actively participate in and support public health initiatives and research across empowering individuals and communities to take charge of their health. Our team has a role to play in fostering a healthier Bradford where everyone can thrive.

Looking Forward
The threat of funding cuts may not completely disappear, but by being prepared and proactive, NHS Libraries can continue to demonstrate their value and secure the resources needed to fulfil wider health equity missions.

If you’re interested in reading the full report I submitted to pledge our case please contact me.
Federica Bianchini
Library Services & Information Resources Manager
Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust