Just over twenty years ago two north colleagues came to see me at The Royal society of Medicine where I headed up the library and IT services. Essentially they were head-hunting me to apply for the newly created role of Regional director of Library Services in the North West. The post was one of a series of recommendations in the SECTA Review which had been commissioned by the former North West Regional Office (RO).


One of those people was Linda Ferguson who had been key in managing the SECTA Review, persuading the RO to follow up on its recommendations. I guess you all know, I got the job and started to appoint a team. I needed someone to take all the “admin” away from me, so my first action was to appoint an Office Manager, Margaret Greenwood. This was followed by two Deputies, Colin Davies and Linda Ferguson. The four of us established the Unit’s base at Warrington Hospital and began a series of visits to libraries and setting up programmes of work.


A few things to note:

  • Having been the Deputy Regional Librarian in the Oxford Region, working firstly for Peter Leggate and then for Judy Palmer I had a clear idea of what was needed and how to do it. I’m afraid the “Oxford way” rapidly became the “North West way”.
  • CPD was a central part of our offer and Linda developed and ran the programme for the first two to three years.
  • Money! I recall an early meeting with my new line manager at the RO, Professor Michael Orme; I asked “how much is my operating budget?” There was too long a pause and I realised this had not been thought through. Nevertheless, I got £50,000 recurrent in year one and we grew it from there.


Twenty years on and the Unit is responsible for the whole of the North of England. Our advice, support, quality monitoring and CPD programmes remain at the heart of everything we do – but now within the wider context of the national framework, Knowledge for Healthcare.


And Linda has just retired. She is a great loss to the team and to me personally. No longer can I say, “Linda, how do you….” Or “Linda, can you remember…” I am having to do detail which, as those of you that know me well, is not a strength. Linda had that rare gift, someone who could think strategically and follow through with operational detail. Clear thinking and a rigorous approach to everything she did Linda’s hard-working integrity is much missed.



I sometimes say “HCLU never sleeps” and despite Linda’s retirement and Sharron Cox leaving for a new role we are all still here, working hard to ensure that all NHS organisations, staff and learners have the right knowledge at the right time and in the right place. We are in the process of recruiting a new Team Administrator and recruitment for a new deputy will follow soon.


In the wake of our fabulous conference in Harrogate I would like to say another thank you to Linda and wish her a long and happy retirement. In the meantime Dom, Gil and Joanne – and me – we’re ready to help; just shout when you need us. Have a great summer.

David Stewart
Regional director of Health Library and Knowledge Services North