Exploring the Irish health repository

Aoife Lawton and Padraig Manning write about a unique and unparalleled collection of Irish health-related material which is available to Irish health service managers in a simple, straightforward one-stop shop, without the clutter and ‘false positives’ of a Google search.

If you’re looking for the latest HSE report and its predecessor from the 1980s, while your colleague is looking for research into hygiene and cryptosporidiosis infection rates in the Mid-West, then the odds are you’ll both find what you’re looking for in Lenus (www.lenus.ie). Lenus – the Irish Health Repository – is a freely-available, open-access database of health publications and clinical research, maintained by the Regional Library & Information Service in Dr Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin. The contents of Lenus are full-text and fully Irish, and constitute an invaluable resource for anyone working in the Irish health services.

On the Lenus homepage is a link to ‘Key reports in the Irish health services’ – an alphabetical list of core policy documents and reports which have driven development in the Irish health services over the past 50 years. Some of the reports like the ‘Commission of inquiry on mental illness’ or the ‘Devlin report’ (both 1966) are difficult to obtain, and some are available nowhere else. A significant proportion of the minutes and publications of the former health boards are archived in Lenus, with particular emphasis on the former Eastern Health Board and its successor, the Eastern Regional Health Authority, along with the three individual health boards that came under the auspices of the ERHA.

Health service managers, like most professionals working in the Irish health services, need to identify, locate and retrieve the best evidence for management decision making. Lenus brings together a unique and unparalleled collection of Irish health-related material, from Department of Health policy documents and HSE public health reports, to academic and clinical research with an Irish dimension. The publications of Irish statutory organisations like the Health Research Board and An Bord Altranais are stored here too. There are reports and evidence to support the six key management functions for health service delivery, as defined by the World Health Organisation.1For financial planning and management, budgetary reports and service plans are available.

There is a dedicated HSE collection with clearly-defined subject categories and a comprehensive collection of HSE board minutes, service plans and financial statements. For human resource planning there is a rich collection of documents from the former Office for Health Management and the Health Service Executive Employer’s Agency, as well as HR policy and strategy reports from the HSE and its predecessors. For governance and accountability there are documents from HIQA, the Office of the Ombudsman and of course the HSE itself. Health-related legislation is here too, as well as the full range of procurement and service delivery plans. A wealth of clinical and statistical reports from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the HSE’s Population Health departments is available to inform and underpin service delivery at every level. There is even a collection of theses and dissertations by professionals working within the HSE.

Any time-pressed manager might be inclined to ask ‘Can’t I just Google this?’, and the simple answer is ‘Yes, I can’. Everything in Lenus – every annual report, every HIQA nursing home inspection, every research article and HSE staff member thesis – is indexed and searchable via Google. But Lenus with its clean, intuitive interface, its exclusively Irish focus and its unmatched collection of Irish health service documents (both historical and cutting-edge) offers the user a simple, straightforward one-stop shop, without the clutter and ‘false positives’ of a Google search. Lenus records are catalogued to professional standards by HSE library staff and tailored to the Irish healthcare environment, saving hours of laborious trawling by management and clinical staff. In a world where the old adage ‘time is money’ has never been truer, Lenus represents real value for money and is a key resource for all HSE staff.

Aoife Lawton, Systems Librarian, Health Service Executive, Regional Library & Information Service, Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin.

Padraig Manning, Librarian, St. Ita’s Hospital Library, Portrane, Co. Dublin.

  1. See http://www.who.int/management/functions/en/index.html (accessed 23.05.11)