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Supporting Shared Decision-Making in Healthcare: Health Education England and the Copyright Licensing Agency Enable Sharing of Digital Copies with Patients

22nd July 2019

From April 2019, staff working for the NHS in England can provide digital copies from books, journals and magazines to patients and their carers or guardians.

At the request of Health Education England (HEE), the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) has successfully consulted with rightsholders to include this new permission in the CLA Licence Plus Agreement for the NHS in England.

Previously, NHS staff could only supply single paper copies of copyright works to patients. This new permission will mean that NHS staff and patients in England will benefit from greater access to essential healthcare information wherever and whenever they want, which will ultimately aid prevention, treatment and care. As well as making content more accessible to patients around the country, it embraces the NHS’ drive to be more sustainable.

Patrick Mitchell, Director of Innovation and Transformation at Health Education England said:

Our vision is that patients and the public can access the right knowledge and evidence, at the right time, in the right place, to enable high quality decision-making. Most healthcare professionals access published information such as journal articles and book chapters in digital formats. As the NHS strives to reduce paper and to use digital technologies to empower patients, it makes sense for healthcare staff to be able to share these directly with patients where it helps with their care.


Dr Ruth Carlyle, who leads HEE’s Knowledge for Healthcare public and patient information and health literacy work, added:

This new clause will also help NHS organisations fulfil their legal obligation under the Accessible Information Standard to ensure that those with a disability, impairment or sensory loss can easily access information, as digital copies may be used with software that can, for instance, read out loud or magnify text.


James Bennett, CLA Head of Rights & Licensing, commented:

We are always looking at ways to enhance our licences, as part of our mission to make copyright simple for users, and we are delighted to be able to add this new permission for the NHS in England, which will provide wider access to research literature in digital formats.


The new permission supports CLA’s mission is to give customers a simple solution to copyright compliance, allowing them to easily access and share the vital information in digital or print, to deliver high quality healthcare, while also ensuring rightsholders receive fair payment for their work.

Note to healthcare staff: there is a short Copyright Notice that must be used when supplying digital copies from copyright works to patients and families. Please contact your local NHS library for details, via