Many high-quality medical textbooks come bundled with their digital equivalents that can be accessed either via a website or an app. Access to these electronic resources is either available via the book and is priced in with the purchase of the book or can be purchased separately from the book. Sometimes these electronic texts can be made freely available to selected people.

One good example is that some web-based medical textbooks belonging to the highly respected publisher, Oxford University Press can under certain conditions for some (but not all) UK based healthcare professionals, be legitimately accessed and used free of charge. Not all their medical books are included within this offering but it does include access for example, to the online version of the Oxford Textbook of Medicine and some members of the excellent Oxford Handbook series. So how is it done?

Firstly, head off to  and then next you will need to use an OpenAthens account associated with the NHS. Many of you may already have this excellent and free facility but if not, check out eligibility at  This webpage is only for England based staff but there are links from here for other UK countries. The page also has a link to register if you don’t already own an OpenAthens account which is free if you satisfy the eligibility. 

Assuming you are eligible and have a current and active OpenAthens account; go to and click on “sign in via your institution” which is in the middle of the grey subscriber box at the top left section of the web page. After clicking the “sign in via your institution” link, type in “NHS” and an England, Scotland and Wales option appears; in my case, I click “NHS England.” You are then asked to enter your OpenAthens username and password and hey presto you are logged in.

According to my login, I am entitled to access 129 Oxford medical textbooks (click “Browse all titles in your subscription” in the top left portion) and some of them are very up to date. There are search facilities available and you can also display the books in order of online publication date, starting from the newest and working towards the oldest. There are a number of members of the excellent Oxford Handbook series which are up to date to be found here and from the home page, click on access to the digital version of the Oxford Textbook of Medicine.

I suspect there is something here for many healthcare professionals and assuming you qualify for access and I suspect that means many UK based readers of this column. I think this is a superb facility which offers a rich variety of medical knowledge in a very accessible format. Even better, there is no charge at all; it is genuinely free to the end user through this method.

Once you have set up access, it is very easy to log in and out and it is wise on the first visit, to have a good look around and see what this website has to offer and understand its functionality. Once you get used to it, I am sure you will return.  If you have similar suggestions to this, we would be delighted to hear from you, so please contact our editor and perhaps we can share your suggestion?


Harry Brown is a GP in Leeds and medical editor of GM Journal