Case Study: Current Awareness: Prehospital Emergency Care Current Awareness Update by Matt Holland

Knowledge for Healthcare aka KfH, is, among other things, taking a fresh look at everyday library practices. Read the Knowledge for Healthcare blog for the full story. This Case Study reflects on the report of the Current Awareness Services Task and Finish Group (CAS T&FG).

Some Background

The initial service, the Prehospital Emergency Care Current Awareness Update (PECCAU) was a partnership between the National Ambulance Research Steering Group and Lincolnshire PCT (Price, Holland & Perry 2011). PECCAU was created to support researchers working in Ambulance Services which at that time had limited or no access to healthcare libraries. The service concentrated on material from the National Core Content and Open Access journals, with four to six issues year. This approach limited the subject coverage but made it easy for recipients to access content.

Move forward to 2015. The original editor, Alison Price, handed over the service to NWAS LKS. NWAS LKS already produced a monthly service that was a combination of academic research and any relevant publications and websites from the NHS, related organisations and think tanks, anything really.

For NWAS LKS as a single person part-time service, a commitment to two CAS in the same topic area was unsustainable. Healthcare library services spend an average of eight hours per week on CAS,  a point highlighted in the Current Awareness T&FG Report. Clearly for some it carries a significant overhead. Following a rethink the NWAS LKS service was closed and NWAS LKS now just produces PECCAU. The scope of the national service was widened to include all relevant scholarly / academic publications. The service simply lists articles under main headings. Generally 80 plus articles each month with links to the publishers website. To add value all articles are tweeted through @NWASLibrary in the month prior to the compilation of each issue with their own hashtag #NWASLKSParamedic and included in a publicly available two Mendeley Groups, one for the current issue, one cumulating previous issues.


PECCAU has a clear aim, to be distributed as widely as possible and by any means possible. The subject coverage is broad, relevant to anyone working in, or researching, pre-hospital and emergency care. This is clearly different from the individualised recommender based systems, or narrowly focused subject services. Research in CAS T&FG report looks a typology by format, bulletins are the overwhelming choice. It might be helpful to categorise CAS services by intention or audience since much of what defines the service flows from that, rather than the tools used to produce it or the formatting.


No rights are asserted over PECCAU and reuse is actively encouraged. Individual library services do configure it to point users their own collections. The suggestion from the CAS T&FG is that CAS should adopt an appropriate Creative Commons License which seems like good advice. Future issues will contain a Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) statement.


There are two parts to this, production and sharing. PECCAU is a collaboration between NARSG and NWAS LKS. Production is in house, however, using an aggregator (Feedly Pro ) and a relatively easy to update template. Sharing is via eMail lists relying on colleagues to share through their networks. Collaboration is the metric adopted by CAS T&FG, luckily PECCAU ticks that box. A simple regional/national repository of bulletins would be a useful additional channel to reach an even wider audience.

Formats and all that

The CAS T&FG report identifies the bulletin as the format of choice for CAS. With little evaluation it’s hard to know if this is a producer choice or consumer choice. It’s certanly easy to create and distribute. On the produce once use many principle PECCAU creates different outputs of the same content. This is helped by using a Mendeley database as the core engine of creation able to knock out the data in a number of ways.

Good Practice

The area of Prehospital Care is still just about able to fit into in one large monthly bulletin. The volume of content means that summarisation isn’t cost effective. Individual papers, reports and guidelines of note are flagged up in the Editor’s Introduction. The CAS T&RG exemplars all have summarisation as a feature. If this forms part of the proposed Outline what a good Current Awareness Services should look like in terms of content then PECCAU could be in trouble. Good practice guidelines sound like a very good idea if broadly written, to provide a baseline quality standard.


Thoughts on the traditional library survey are available elsewhere. True evaluation is usage. That requires a distribution channel with a built in metric using a commercial mailing list manager e.g. MailChimp or Google Analytics. Currently none of these are planned for PECCAU although qualitative feedback is very positive.


Price, A., Holland, M. & Perry, R. 2011, Unlocking the Prehospital Evidence Base: Making the most of library services in clinical research. Ambulance Today, October. 19-26. Available from: [Accessed 27 May 2016}.

Matt Holland, NWAS LKS, Librarian.
NWAS LKS is supported by HCLU

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