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About clinical guidelines

Clinical guidelines are recommendations by NICE on the appropriate treatment and care of people with specific diseases and conditions within the NHS. They are based on the best available evidence. While clinical guidelines help health professionals in their work, they do not replace their knowledge and skills

Aim of clinical guidelines

Good clinical guidelines aim to improve the quality of healthcare. They can change the process of healthcare and improve people's chances of getting as well as possible. Clinical guidelines can:

  • provide recommendations for the treatment and care of people by health professionals
  • be used to develop standards to assess the clinical practice of individual health professionals
  • be used in the education and training of health professionals
  • help patients to make informed decisions
  • improve communication between patient and health professional

Versions of clinical guidelines

NICE produces four versions of its clinical guidelines:

  • the full guideline contains all the recommendations, plus details of the methods used and the underpinning evidence
  • the NICE guideline presents the recommendations from the full version in a format suited to implementation by health professionals and NHS bodies
  • the NICE pathway is an online tool for health and social care professionals that brings together all related NICE guidance, quality standards and implementation tools on a topic in a set of interactive flowcharts
  • understanding NICE guidance is written using suitable language for people without specialist medical knowledge.

Cancer service guidance

Cancer service guidance supports the implementation of The NHS Cancer Plan for England, and the NHS Plan for Wales Improving Health in Wales. The focus of the cancer service guidance is to guide the commissioning of services and is therefore different from clinical practice guidelines.

Health professionals should take the NICE cancer service guidance into account when planning, commissioning and organising services for cancer patients. This guidance can be used to identify gaps in local provision and to check the appropriateness of existing services.

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This page was last updated: 05 September 2013

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Selected, reliable information for health and social care in one place

Accessibility | Cymraeg | Freedom of information | Vision Impaired | Contact Us | Glossary | Data protection | Copyright | Disclaimer | Terms and conditions

Copyright 2014 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. All rights reserved.