Minervation launches National Elf Service for mental health

Join-the-elvesToday we are announcing the launch of our National Elf Service, designed to help busy health and social care professionals easily stay up to date with today’s huge volumes of significant research developments in their fields, improve their knowledge, and reduce error. For entry-level users, the service is free.

The National Elf Service is the brainchild of our Founders André Tomlin and Douglas Badenoch, humorously branded with the idea of Elves who ‘dig and delve’ (1).  This service, where basic membership is free to users, is designed to benefit practitioners and patients alike by providing user-friendly updates on the most significant new evidence selected from today’s avalanche of high quality research.

Health and social care professionals are inundated with new evidence.  They can’t keep up to date, yet they are required to for professional development and audit purposes.

The National Elf Service tackles this problem in a unique way. Created by professionals for professionals, it summarises high quality new evidence that is relevant to practice using industry-standard appraisal criteria and an accessible and user-friendly front-end.

The service also features open and transparent discussion of the evidence, bringing together clinicians, patients and researchers.  And users can track their learning as they engage with the evidence using the service’s curated content and continuing professional development tools.

No other service works in this way.  The mantra is:

  • No bias
  • No misinformation
  • No spin
  • Just what you need!

The National Elf Service aims to improve clinical practice by making it easier for professionals to engage with the best evidence.

First to be launched in the National Elf Service series is the Mental Elf. Carefully piloted and coproduced over the last 4 years, the Mental Elf helps clinical and care practitioners navigate the welter of high quality published mental health research, covering all the major conditions (such as depression and schizophrenia) and treatments (such as CBT and mindfulness).

Studies have shown each individual mental health professional would otherwise have to read around 250 research papers per day to keep up to speed with important treatment developments (2).  Even though the mental health sector is divided into specialist subsections, a professional still bears the burden of reading and absorbing around 20 papers per day: an overwhelming task.

This is a critical issue for professional standards and the quality of patient care.  There is good evidence that the currency of clinicians’ knowledge declines over time, and that this can affect patient care (3).  Fortunately, there is also strong evidence that giving clinicians access to evidence-based, user-friendly summaries improves knowledge and reduces error (4).

The Mental Elf service is made possible thanks to time and effort from the community of practising professionals. A selection of experienced practitioners has voluntarily undertaken to critically appraise the latest research, select significant developments, and then provide an evidence-based summary and clinical commentary on that research. The service then makes this work browseable by users on the Mental Elf website and across social media. The Mental Elf has over 100 expert contributors and around 45,000 regular users, all built up in its pilot phase. The service also boasts some 29,000 Twitter followers.

In response to user research, The Mental Elf is now also offering a number of additional services, which members can purchase through subscription, to enhance their experience of the core free service.  These comprise:

  1. Tailored email alerts to keep you up to date with the latest reliable research
  2. The ability to automatically track your CPD and print certificates that summarise your learning
  3. Online webinars, debates and journal clubs where you can discuss the latest evidence with colleagues and experts, and refine your critical appraisal skills
  4. Reflective practice notes where you can keep track of your learning
  5. Discussion groups to help you connect with experts and colleagues in your field of interest


Further Elf websites are currently being piloted and will be launched across 2015-16. These include:

André Tomlin comments:

It is evidently impossible for health and social care professionals in most fields to keep up to date with the torrent of high quality evidence now being published. The sheer volume of quality research is, of course, something very much to be celebrated, but if practitioners cannot absorb all of the important new knowledge, then patients do not benefit. Nor is it reasonable to demand that practitioners demonstrate continuous professional development without some way of navigating this sheer volume of research.

The clear need for a viable method of absorbing key research, and applying it to the benefit of patients, is evident from the massive interest that the Mental Elf’s pilot has attracted. It also now looks like the pilots we are running in other specialisms are showing the same enthusiastic response; most importantly from people volunteering to be contributors. To have initiated a successful professionals community venture like this is really exciting, because it is effectively clinical and care professionals putting their hands up and saying, ‘This is a really good idea. Let’s all work together to make it happen.’

For further press information, please contact:

Paul Lindsell or Chris Smith

Lindsell Marketing

0207 402 0510

[email protected]


  1. QZ, A most pleasant description of Benwel Village,  1726, “So drudging Elf shall dig and delve”
  2. Summarised in Badenoch D, Tomlin A. Keeping up to date with reliable mental health research: Minervation White Paper (PDF). Minervation, Oxford, 2015
  3. Badenoch D & De Brún C. (2011) Where’s the evidence for evidence? Review of abstracts of studies of clinicians’ information seeking behaviour. Newsletter of the International Society of Evidence-Based Health Care 2011;4:8-13
  4. Ely JW, Osheroff JA, Chambliss MA et al. (2005) Answering physicians’ clinical questions: obstacles and potential solutions. JAMIA, 2005, 12(2), pp217-224.
Category: Portfolio