My Trust, that covers acute and community services in Northern Lincolnshire and part of East Yorkshire, serves a population of 350,000 and employs approximately 6,500 staff.
Trust Library Services consists of two staffed site libraries and one small library resource room that is not staffed. Professionally qualified staff in my service consist of two full time staff, supported by 2.44 whole time equivalent para professionals.

Increased demand for support with systematic reviews
Demand for support with systematic reviews (SRs) has noticeably increased in my service over the last year and I wanted to seek the opinion of my peers, and check the literature on the subject of managing demand for systematic review support.

What I discovered was that sometimes our users ask for support for systematic reviews when what they are really conducting is a literature review. In my experience, this appears to be happening at the dissertation stage of Masters degrees.

So, from my point of view, we not only need to manage demand for SR support, but we also need to manage the process by which we ‘weed’ out literature reviews from ‘true’ systematic reviews.
Themes that emerged as I researched this subject were:

• Library and Knowledge Service staff can make a unique contribution to the systematic review process because of the fact that we have been trained to search in an ‘algorithmic’ way.
• The ‘Pros’ of supporting systematic reviews include increased visibility of our skills as expert searchers and research collaborators.
• The ‘Cons’ include the amount of time it takes to carry out the searches for systematic reviews.
• In some cases, the systematic researcher/reviewer does not initially understand the complexity and thorough nature of searching that is required. However, once such obstacles are overcome, the collaborative process can be a rewarding one.
• Supporting SRs is not something that LKS staff can do in their ‘spare time’ and where they try to do this, it can result in burnout.
• Helping our users prepare for a SR can help us as LKS staff to manage the level of support that we can provide.
• A defined and structured service model for SRs can be achieved by the development of a work plan template by LKS staff.

I drafted a work plan for use in my service to both tease out literature reviews from ‘true’ systematic reviews, and to aid the planning for the SR process for both LKS staff and researcher/reviewers. As yet, it remains untested, but is ready to be amended and adjusted, as necessary.

Having enough staff to support systematic reviews
My service does not have enough professionally qualified staff to support SRs as fully as I would like. My plan is to manage demand via the use of the work plan that I have drafted (see Appendix 1 in the full article – link at the bottom of this post)

The fact that Health Education England issued a policy statement, in late 2019, about the ratio of qualified library and knowledge specialists per member of the NHS workforce, is a timely document to bolster any business case for increased staffing. However, services with far greater levels of staff than I currently have, report the need for ongoing management of demand for support with SRs.

Pockets of LKS staff working for the NHS in England are devising guides and populating websites with incredibly useful tools and tips for researchers/reviewers who are conducting SRs, and as noted, I have drafted a work plan for my own service.

The consolidation of all of this work would be of potential benefit to all LKS managers wishing to better manage and meet SR demands.


Jo Thomas, Trust Library Services Manager, Northern Lincolnshire & Goole NHS Foundation Trust.

Jo wrote a longer article on this topic and kindly provided a brief version for us for the blog - to read the full version please click here