At the onset of the COVID pandemic, HSE frontline staff faced the immediate challenge of managing cases of COVID-19 across healthcare settings, with little in the way of best practice guidance. Frontline staff required access to summaries of the latest guidance to support them in their clinical practice. HSE National Health Library & Knowledge (now renamed HSE Health Library Ireland) was asked to provide literature searches and evidence summaries on questions in relation to COVID-19 from frontline health workers, health managers and National Clinical Programmes.
A national virtual team of HSE librarians including some other volunteer librarians was quickly established. This Evidence Team developed a standardised search protocol which established a specific set of sources to search. An Evidence Summary template was also developed in which the evidence found during the literature search could be completed by librarians and disseminated. Each question received was validated to see if there was existing guidance available; where a summary was appropriate, a systematic literature search was carried out and the best available evidence compiled into a concise 1 or 2 page summary of evidence.
Evidence summaries were completed by pairs of librarians and were then sent to the healthcare worker that had requested the review. Before being sent for publication, the reviews were subject to a double editorial. The completed summaries were made freely available in 3 separate locations online.
Initially, the service was used mainly by individual health professionals as well as the National Clinical Programmes. In 2021, the service was increasingly availed of by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee.
Going forward, while still being available to provide evidence summaries on COVID-19, the Evidence Team offers a comprehensive search and summary service to all HSE staff on any healthcare topic. We are also collaborating with the Health Information Quality Authority.