Clinical Evidence will no longer be freely available to clinicians in England after NHS Connecting for Health failed to agree a new contract with its publishers.

From January clinicians in England who want access to Clinical Evidence, the international source of the best available evidence on the effects of common clinical interventions, will either have to pay an individual subscription or hope that they can benefit from a local group institutional deal.

The BMJ Publishing Group says it was unable to meet the terms of the new contract demanded by CfH because it wanted the BMJ to hand over the intellectual property of Clinical Evidence to CfH.

Clinicians in Scotland and Wales will continue to enjoy free access thanks to separate agreements with the devolved NHS in those countries.

Dr David Tovey, editorial director of Clinical Evidence, said the database has been freely available to clinicians in England since 1999, funded by the NHS.

He told EHI Primary Care: “We are now in a situation where we have a long term contract with countries including the States, Italy, New Zealand and Australia as well as Scotland and Wales but not in England. It’s disappointing because we know that many doctors use it a lot.”

Dr Tovey said that when the BMJ Publishing Group submitted a bid to continue the contract it felt unable to meet the terms and conditions which specified that, alongside quality and value for money requirements, CfH should have the intellectual property rights.

Dr Tovey added: “We were asked to submit a more compliant bid but we were not prepared to hand over intellectual property.”

Dr Tovey said that CfH chose instead to agree a contract with Prodigy, the clinical knowledge service which is already owned by the Department of Health.

Dr Tovey said: “We feel, and, I think Prodigy would agree, that we provide complementary resources. Prodigy is more operationalising the evidence such as information about when to refer and how to investigate whereas if you wanted to know what’s the likely benefit and harm of a treatment decision I don’t think there’s another resource that people could turn to that would give them the same clarity of answer and trustability that we do.”

Dr Tovey said the BMJ Publishing Group had decided to allow free access to Clinical Evidence for clinicians in England until the end of the year after which it would try to make group institutional sales and sell individual subscriptions. For clinicians the full cost is likely to be around £120 a year but with an ‘early bird’ discounted offer of around £60 a year also available.

Connecting for Health were contacted by EHI Primary Care and asked to outline their reasons for ending funding of Clinical Evidence but had not responded by the time of publication.


Clinical Evidence