Case Studies

Waltham Forest - Taking libraries to health

Waltham Forest was one of ten communities to pilot Partnership for Patients, a scheme that trains librarians to help patients choose an NHS hospital and book appointments online.

The project had enthusiastic support from library staff, including Head of Libraries, Lorna Lee. "Libraries are not just there for lending books," she says. "They are the first point of information for all sorts of services, whether through books and leaflets or staff helping people access the internet or answer questions."

Inspired by this success, Lorna and her team also participated in a multi-disciplinary open day at a local GP surgery. "We like to maximise our opportunities so it was organised to coincide with flu-jab day," says Sue Crabbe, practice manager at the St James's Street medical centre. Some 250 patients walked around the exhibits, learning not only about the library services, but also about topics such as energy efficiency in the home and healthy lifestyles.

"The pilot has helped develop librarian skills and showed people in the health sector what libraries can do," says Lorna. "It has changed the mindset of people and in the future we hope it will show that libraries are successful partners to work with."

Hackney - Taking health to libraries

Librarians in Hackney have been trained to help patients choose their hospitals and book appointments online or by phone, under the Partnership for Patients scheme. They set out booklets, banners and pop-up posters to publicise the scheme, and gathered feedback through user surveys.

However, it didn't stop there. Working with City & Hackney Teaching Primary Care Trust, the libraries also hosted a series of health events. A mobile dental van offered free check-ups outside the library. People could also get blood pressure checks and stop-smoking advice. The PCT wants to encourage more take-up of childhood immunisations, so the library also provided facilities for an information point and a vaccination session.

Organising the events was a lot of work, admits Cyprian Marah, who manages Patient Choice projects in the borough. "It took a fair amount of time to organise." However, he thinks the effort was worthwhile and looks forward to more joint projects in the future. "Health is one of the highest priorities in the borough. As such, it's a very good partnership to continue with."

Stockport & Derbyshire - Good neighbours

In North Derbyshire, a team from the local NHS Choose and Book team developed an interactive tool and training programme for librarians . Thus equipped, they were able to help people navigate local health services. "There was not a huge take-up at first," says programme manager Wendy Sunney. "But now it is very well entrenched in Derbyshire and patients are beginning to exercise their choices."

The librarians were very keen to get involved, she adds. Thanks to their enthusiasm, GPs can now see that the library is also a good place to publicise the services they can offer to patients.

In neighbouring Stockport, librarians and PCT staff saw what was going on next door and felt intrigued. They arranged to visit Bolsover library and see the scheme in action - and left determined to set up a programme of their own. "We could see the potential of this innovative service and wondered how it could be delivered here in Stockport," says Caroline Bennett, head of Library Choice

Subsequently, librarian training sessions were organised and delivered at the local Foundation Trust hospital. Stockport gained access to the pilot scheme's online portal - and rolled out the service in all 15 of its libraries.

Haringey - Health pioneer

When Haringey joined the Partnership for Patients scheme, its libraries were already setting the standard for involvement in health, winning praise from the Social Services Inspectorate. Libraries have played their part in local efforts on diet, exercise, safer sex, mental wellbeing, and alcohol and drugs.

Nine libraries and additional outreach points give the NHS a chance to promote health services. People can even have stress counselling in special well-being suites. "Libraries are usually regarded as places to get information," says Head librarian Diana Edmonds. Her team wants to move beyond that and offer opportunities for wellness.

They were "absolutely delighted" to join Partnership for Patients, and help people choose their hospital services. "It's entirely appropriate to what we do. We have a big emphasis on IT and internet champions in each library."

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