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Evidence based practice

NHS Evidence makes it easier to access the latest evidence based information  

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NHS Evidence allows staff to keep up to speed on best practice. One nurse describes how this has revolutionised the way he can provide effective care



Keywords: NHS Evidence, Evidence based, Online tool, Online resource


A key part of my work includes challenging attitudes – and discrimination where it exists – as well as supporting staff in ensuring that care is provided in line with legal frameworks and takes a human rights approach. I am leading on changes across St George’s Healthcare Trust in south London to ensure that clinical practice addresses the needs of people with learning disabilities. As part of this strategy I am working with clinical colleagues to assist in pushing forward the aim of raising awareness and challenging and shaping practice.

NHS Evidence is vital in this work; I regularly use it to help ensure that practice reflects the latest policy and legislation, and to see what is happening elsewhere in the UK.

I know I can go to one website and will be able to quickly access everything I need to carry out my work, such as the latest policies from the Department of Health (England), the Scottish Executive (Scotland) and the Learning Disability Advisory Group (Wales). I can also look at other important documents such as key national frameworks and the latest guidelines from organisations such as the Royal College of Nursing and the Social Care Institute for Excellence.

Accessing the right information

When a user runs a search on NHS Evidence, results are ranked according to relevance and quality, so I usually find the information I need on the first results page, whether the search term is as short as “cancer” or as specific as “older people with learning disabilities and cancer”. The search returns hundreds of results, but the navigation menu on the left hand side of the screen allows users to refine the search quickly by: interest area (for example, clinical, commissioning); type of information (guidelines, grey literature); clinical queries (symptoms, diagnosis); sources (Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, DH); and medicines and devices (aspirin, ventilator).

Like many nurses, I submit a lot of research papers to journals for publication. NHS Evidence allows me to search a wide range of databases simultaneously, including internationally respected evidence based sources such as the Cochrane Library, British National Formulary and NICE. As an Athens account holder, I can also search a number of healthcare databases and subscription journals which have been purchased for NHS England.

I regularly access the 34 specialist collections within NHS Evidence and would encourage other nurses to do this. These collections filter the huge quantity of published research in different areas – such as cancer, women’s health, learning disabilities – to ensure that users find only the best available evidence. From the specialist collections, I am able to link to the latest guidelines, systematic reviews and research in my areas of interest. I have also signed up to a mailing list to help keep up to date with developments within, and additions to, the learning disabilities collection.

NHS Evidence as a research tool

I am also a senior lecturer and, like many other nurse academics, over the last few years I have found juggling the practical demands of nursing with the need to keep up to speed on the latest best practice information a frustrating and never ending challenge. For me, it is good news that I no longer have to spend hours trawling different sources to gather up to date information for lectures and seminars but can instead access this information in one place. For example, if I am about to deliver a lecture on consent to treatment and I need to check a point on the implementation of current legislation, I know that I will be able to find this information on NHS Evidence within seconds.

Information sharing

If I find information anywhere on NHS Evidence that I think would be useful to someone else, there is a function that enable me to email it on to them. This is excellent for information sharing and has been much appreciated by my nursing colleagues.


Since October 2009, the NHS Evidence accreditation scheme has made it easy for professionals to identify the most reliable and trusted sources of guidance on healthcare practice. NHS Evidence awards an accreditation mark or seal of approval to guidance producers who show compliance with a defined set of criteria. These criteria are intended to demonstrate that accredited guidance is robust, for example by recording potential conflicts of interest and seeking patient views and preferences. Accreditation is invaluable as it provides me with confidence that the information I am accessing is credible and of a high standard.

Effective leadership

As the only nurse consultant in my trust responsible for learning disabilities, it is vital that I provide fellow health professionals with support, guidance, reassurance and leadership, so that the care of people with learning disabilities is appropriate and effective. By having the best information at my fingertips via NHS Evidence, I am confident I am providing the highest standard of care to my patients – this has to be a good thing.

AUTHOR Jim Blair, MA, BSc, PGDipHE, DipSW, RNLD, CNLD, is consultant nurse in learning disabilities, St George’s Healthcare Trust, and senior lecturer in learning disabilities, Kingston University/St George’s University of London

  • NHS Evidence can be accessed here.
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