by Steve Bowman, Medical School Librarian and Technology-Enhanced-Learning Lead at Brighton & Sussex Medical School

Working as a Medical School Librarian in the NHS over the last year has been a steep learning curve – all our clinicians’ practice is centred on ‘evidence-based practice’ and supplying our clinicians and medical students with the information that they need has been a constant struggle.

Whilst the NHS libraries have been open during the pandemic, our medical students in particular have not had the access to printed materials that they would normally enjoy. Both University libraries that serve the Medical School have been closed, and access to physical materials has been severely limited. This has led to a pivot to e-materials during the last year. Whist access to e-journals has been the practice for many years, the move to e-books has been a new departure for many NHS services.

Sadly, the NHS is not immune to the deprivations of the e-book market. As the Covid response has driven us all into the arms of the e-book suppliers, we have faced the same problems as the HE Sector. A physical textbook costing £84.19 per copy will now cost us approx. £1,450 for institutional e-access.

As part of the reaction to the epidemic the NHS had temporary access to the ‘Covid-19 Collection’ via Kortext, but after this was withdrawn many of the publishers withdrew titles that had been essential from their lists. The frustrations of medical students are plain to see when they can purchase a title in Kindle format cheaply and cannot understand why the library cannot supply all students with the same title centrally.

The #ebookSOS movement is shining a bright light on the current e-book marketplace and it is hoped that it will have an impact across NHS Knowledge and Library services.

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