Health links

  • Medline is the world’s largest open access database of medical information and is run by the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes for Health. The British equivalent of Medline is the National Electronic Library for Health. It only has a fraction of the content of Medline and access to most of the information available is restricted to NHS staff. Dr Foster is an independent organisation that collects and analyses information on the availability and quality of health services in the UK.
  • Department of Health. The publication scheme directs you to minutes of meetings, annual reports, policies, public consultations, and internal guidance (such as the Data Protection Subject Access Request Handling Guide). The Tenders library is a great way to search for existing tenders and recently awarded contracts. Scottish Health Statistics are available from the Information and Statistics Division of NHS Scotland. For what they’re worth, here are the latest hospital activity statistics that show waiting lists and available beds, etc. They are not renowned for their accuracy.
  • The Healthcare Commission (formal name is the Commission for Health Audit and Inspection) publishes reports (online) of all investigations and panel hearings about problems in the health service. The reports are anonymised, however, diminishing their usefulness.
  • Health Service Ombudsman. The annual report to Parliament about the work of the past year is full of good article material and is available online. Individual Trusts are named, but absurdly negligent individuals are not, except in rare instances where a practitioner has chosen to ignore the Ombudsman’s ruling.
  • Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health. This commission oversees the new Patient and Public Involvement Forums that replaced the very popular Community Health Councils. Forums must hold open meetings when discussing matters of importance and provide agendas, minutes and background documents. A register should also be kept of members’ interests – an important piece of information to ensure that members are representing patients and not the healthcare industry.
  • Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. The MHRA has two publication schemes – one for medicines and one for devices. They includes annual reports, business plans and healthcare alerts. MHRA regulates safety of drugs, equipment and medical devices. This includes the safety of hip replacements, breast implants, pacemakers, prostheses, and so on.
  • National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). Responsible for appraising the latest technologies, techniques and treatments for the NHS and it is their advice that determines what the NHS buys and uses so keep an eye on the register of members’ interests found in the publication scheme online under “what we do”.