Friday, January 21, 2011

The cost of search (2)

In the middle of last year I attempted to draw conclusions about the difference in costs between TRIP and NHS Evidence (click here for the full blog post).  Since then I've been trying to understand the costs of NHS Evidence and have managed to arrive at the following figures (NOTE: I've had to use Freedom of Information requests which are tedious see here & here.  I welcome NHS Evidence correcting any figures below):

  • Total budget - £24,438,000
  • Content costs (BNF, Cochrane) - £10,675,971
  • Remaining costs (This includes the budget for the specialist collections which I understand is approximately £2,000,000 for all 34) - £13,762,029
Of those remaining costs, here's a flavour of the spending:

  • Consultants and other temporary staff - £2,813,258
  • Staff costs (the 41 employees) - £2,863,742
  • Marketing - £730,000

Using the same search figures as before = 15,811,716 searches at a cost of £13,762,029 (excluding content costs from the total budget).  BTW since I quoted that figure a few people have suggested that actual figure for number of searches is too high as it includes search figures for other databases managed by NHS Evidence.  However, a specific question, via Freedom of Information, refutes this - so I will use this higher figure.

Each search on NHS Evidence costs 87.04 pence

TRIP on the other hand has now reduced its costs (on the TRIP Database) and will this year run on a maximum of £35,000.  Using the same search figures as before (8,058,648) this equates to a cost per search of 0.43 pence per search.

Therefore, each search on NHS Evidence costs 202 times more than on TRIP.

Why does this bother me?  A number of reasons:
  • The NHS is facing massive challenges to the budget yet NHS Evidence appears immune.
  • NHS Evidence distorts the market and TRIP suffers. 
  • NHS Evidence does not appears to be engaging with librarians (that's certainly the feel I get from conversations and emails). The recent decision to give the specialist collections to non-librarian consortia reinforces this feeling.
But the main one is that I don't feel they offer a superior service to TRIP.  I would go as far as to say that I feel TRIP is significantly better at supporting real, frontline clinical staff.  However, I still stand by my main conclusion of last year that search isn't the answer to properly supporting clinicians to practice evidence-based healthcare.


With regard to these latter points I'd love to have the funds to test this.  NHS Evidence got any spare change?

UPDATE: We've had an email from someone who used to work on the predecessor of the NHS Evidence - the National Library for Health (NLH).  They point out that the old budget for the NLH was approximately £9,000,000.  The only significant difference between the two (in relation to funding content (is the £5,000,000 paid to the BNF.  So, comparing the old NLH and the new NHS Evidence there is a difference in funding level of around £10,000,000. They would like to know what does that extra money get you?

I've no idea, perhaps NHS Evidence can tell us?

UPDATE 2: I tweeted about this post and subsequently saw this tweet from Ben Goldacre (@bengoldacre) he of Bad Science fame:

A search on NHS Ev costs 200X one on TRIP: I find TRIP better

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

An extra £10m gets you Gill Leng as the head of NHS Evidence!

Dominic Hurst said...

Have just written to my MP copying the link to this blog and would commend others to do the same.

Thanks for your hard work Jon.

Anonymous said...

Cost per search, at least in the days of the Specialist Collections, is too reductive a measurement of value. It doesn't measure all the work the SCs do with their communities. Trouble is, NHS Evidence are throwing all that away, and many good staff with it.