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MedEconomics: Knowledge directed to desktop

The Scottish electronic library for NHS staff has plenty for GPs, says Dr Alan Begg.

I have used the Scottish NHS e-Library since its inception in 2003 as a state-of-the-art national knowledge service for all NHS staff, students and teachers, plus partners in care and, more recently, to provide self-care and shared decision making information for patients.

Last year, a new portal was introduced and it now delivers its impressive array of electronic knowledge sources directly to GPs' desktops.

It offers information skills training programmes and links to training for those who want to be able to search and retrieve data from their databases.

While many of the resources are available to anyone accessing the site, by signing up for an Athens user name and password, GPs will also have access to over 5,000 online journals, over 80 major databases and more than 5,000 electronic books.

Registering for GPs in Scotland - for which there is no charge - is easy. A user name and password are provided promptly if you use a computer connected to NHSnet.

Quick links

While many GPs will prefer to access major websites directly, there are advantages to going via the e-Library quick link. Because the link is authenticated via your password, all e-Library users can go to articles in, for example, JAMA or NEJM via the Ovid databases link, even though many cannot access this information directly through the publisher's site.

The GP portal gives links to web pages that are particularly popular for GPs, plus common conditions with evidence-based information, guidelines and patient information.

You can search via the clinical search engine, which provides support for the consultations so that decisions are easier to make at the point of clinical need.

Making a search

Take a patient presenting with exertional chest pain suspected to be angina. Searching is straightforward.

The recently published SIGN guideline 96 on stable angina is at the top of the list, followed by a link to Prodigy guidance, then a link to chapter four on angina in the NSF for CHD.

There is also a link to the 1997 European Guideline although a newer one was published in 2006. There are also links to the SIGN publications 32 and 51, which were superseded by SIGN publication 96.

Regular use

The e-Library is popular with on average 15,000 hits per month over the past three months to the GP section alone, with 300 regular users in the past month.

I use it for research for articles and teaching guidelines. It is often easier to go through the Athens log-in on e-library.

Clinical practice staff in Scotland should register because it can improve evidence-based clinical practice.

- Dr Begg is a GP in Montrose.

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