What is NICE, what can it do for you and what can you do for it?

NICE fellow Gail Sowden gives an overview of the role of NICE and explains how CSP members can get the most from its work.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the independent organisation responsible for driving improvement and excellence in the health and social care system. It was established in 1999 to reduce variations in the availability and quality of treatments and care (the so-called ‘postcode lottery’). 
NICE aims to improve outcomes for people using the NHS and public health and social care services by:
  • producing evidence based guidance and advice for health, public health and social care practitioners.
  • developing quality standards and performance metrics for those providing and commissioning health, public health and social care services providing a range of informational services for commissioners, practitioners and managers across the spectrum of health and social care.

What can NICE do for you?

If you want to learn more about what good quality care looks like, or have an interest in shaping national policy, NICE can help you. Here are just some of the ways NICE can support you in your work or studies. 
Clinical guidelines set out the appropriate clinical care for patients with a specific disease or condition receiving care. They are based on the best evidence available of what works and what it costs and provide recommendations on how to best identify, refer, diagnose, treat and manage patients.
NICE quality standards are concise sets of prioritised statements designed to drive measurable quality improvements in a particular area of health or care.  They are derived from the best available evidence, such as NICE guidance and other evidence sources accredited by NICE. Quality standards can be used in contrasting ways by different stakeholders.
Service providers can use NICE guidance and quality standards to ensure, and therefore demonstrate, that they provide high-quality care, based on the best available evidence. Commissioners can use NICE quality standards to promote integration of health and social care and in ensuring the services they commission are of high quality. They can support service users in their choices about who provides care for them, and in knowing what to expect from a good quality care service.
The Into practice guide is a web-based guide to help health and social care organisations use NICE guidance and quality standards to achieve high-quality care in local settings. It suggests what organisations can put in place and what staff can do to use NICE guidance and quality standards to improve outcomes and get the best value for money. The guide also includes helpful tips, links to other resources and offers shared learning examples showing how others have used NICE guidance and standards. It is for commissioners, providers, quality improvement specialists, clinical governance or NICE leads, and anyone implementing a specific piece of guidance or planning or scrutinising care services. 
NICE evidence searches is a password-free (no registration) web portal linking to high-quality medicine, health and social care information sources. These include: guidelines, care pathways, systematic reviews and medicines information. It is separate from, but complements, bibliographic databases such as BNI, CINAHL, and PubMed/Medline. It is particularly useful whenever you want to find high-quality consolidated sources of evidence relating directly to patient or client care, or when you need a quick answer. It is not, however, the place to search for primary research articles. 
Clinical knowledge summaries are a source of clinical knowledge about the common conditions generally managed in primary and first-contact care. 
NICE pathways are graphical presentations of NICE guidance. They bring together related guidance, between and within topics, and link with other products such as quality standards and implementation resources. They are essentially a network of NICE information.
The British National Formulary (BNF) and British National Formulary for Children (BNFC) are key medicine prescribing sources and are available in digital and print for eligible health and social care professionals. fl
Gail Sowden is a consultant physio and NICE fellow. Her fellowship enables her to build her networks and influence, learn about NICE and its work and to foster greater engagement with NICE and the implementation of clinical guidelines.

What you can do for NICE

Getting involved with NICE encourages local engagement with relevant topics, fosters a culture of using evidence- based guidance, and supports individuals’ professional development. There are many things you can do to engage with NICE, so go on, do one of them today!
  • explore and engage with NICE through its website. 
  • undertake an audit against NICE quality standards, this could be used for evidence for the Care Quality Commission.
  • submit a shared learning example: These show how NICE guidance and standards have been put into practice by a range of health, local government and social care organisations. Each year the best examples are recognised at the Shared Learning Awards.
  • comment on draft guidance and standards. All draft guidance and quality standards are consulted on prior to final publication. Register as a stakeholder to comment or send your comments to a relevant registered stakeholder. 
  • subscribe online to NICE News, the monthly newsletter containing information about new guidance, quality standards and implementation resources launched each month.
  • Sign up at NICE for their newsletter here.  
  • follow NICE on Twitter: 107,000 people follow NICE on Twitter for guidance updates @NICEcomms
  • access NICE guidance on your mobile. Download it today free from the Apple iStore and the Android Market, bookmark key recommendations and email them to a colleague.
  • join a working committee to contribute to the production of guidance and quality standards.
  • Vacancies are advertised on the website. 
  • join an external reference group
  • become a NICE fellow or NICE scholar. Join NICE for a fixed period, for a day or more each month, to share your expertise, enthuse your colleagues or work upon an agreed research project of mutual interest. In return, benefit from NICE’s expertise, mentorship and support
Gail Sowden

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