NICE quality standards are concise sets of prioritised statements designed to drive measurable quality improvements within 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. They are developed independently by NICE, in collaboration with health and social care professionals, their partners and service users.

NICE quality standards enable:

  1. Health, public health and social care practitioners to make decisions about care based on the latest evidence and best practice.
  2. People receiving health and social care services, their families and carers and the public to find information about the quality of services and care they should expect from their health and social care provider.
  3. Service providers to quickly and easily examine the performance of their organisation and assess improvement in standards of care they provide.
  4. Commissioners to be confident that the services they are purchasing are high quality and cost effective and focused on driving up quality.

Quality standards consider the complete care pathway, from public health to health and social care. Evidence relating to effectiveness and cost effectiveness, people's experience of using services, safety issues, equality and cost impact are considered during development.

Although some standards are area-specific, there will often be significant overlap across areas and this is considered during development of the standard. Where appropriate, complementary referrals are combined and developed as a fully integrated quality standard.

Quality standards for health

Quality standards for health focus on the treatment and prevention of different diseases and conditions. Topics are referred to NICE by NHS England. They are reflected in the new Clinical Commissioning Group Outcome Indicator Set (CCGOIS) and will inform payment mechanisms and incentive schemes such as the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) and Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN) Payment Framework.

NICE and NHS England have developed a mapping document to show how NICE quality standards can support quality improvement in relation to the NHS Outcomes Framework (NHS OF). It also recognises the role of measurement in this process and highlights links with the CCGOIS.

Quality standards for social care

Quality standards for social care focus on the services and interventions to support the social care needs of service users. Topics include supporting people to live well with dementia, looked-after children and young people, autism and the mental wellbeing of older people in care homes.

Topics are referred by the Department of Health and Department for Education.

Quality standards for public health

NICE has been referred an initial programme of quality standards for public health, following the transfer of public health responsibilities to local authorities. Public health quality standards will support Public Health England, local authorities and the wider public health community.

Topics include reducing tobacco use in the community, preventing harmful alcohol use, and strategies to prevent obesity in adults and children. Topics are referred by the Department of Health.

The Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) is a voluntary incentive scheme for GP practices in the UK, rewarding them for how well they care for patients.

The QOF contains groups of indicators, against which practices score points according to their level of achievement. NICE's role focuses on the clinical and public health domains in the QOF, which include a number of areas such as coronary heart disease and hypertension.

The QOF gives an indication of the overall achievement of a practice through a points system. Practices aim to deliver high quality care across a range of areas, for which they score points. Put simply, the higher the score, the higher the financial reward for the practice. The final payment is adjusted to take account of the practice list size and prevalence. The results are published annually.

NICE's role is to manage an independent and transparent process for developing indicators that are suitable for inclusion within the QOF; it does this by producing a 'menu' of QOF indicators. NHS England and the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will use the NICE QOF menu to help decide which indicators are included in the QOF within their countries. 

The final decision regarding which indicators should be added to and taken out of the QOF is decided through negotiations. In England, NHS Employers on behalf of NHS England, and the General Practitioners Committee on behalf of the British Medical Association decide which indicators are included within the QOF. Separate but similar negotiation processes are carried out within Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. NICE and the QOF Advisory Committee are not involved in these negotiations.

For details of the indicators in the NICE QOF Indicator menu please click the 'View QOF' button

The primary aim of the Clinical Commissioning Group Outcomes Indicator Set (CCGOIS) is to support and enable Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and health and wellbeing partners to plan for health improvement by providing information for measuring and benchmarking outcomes of services commissioned by CCGs.

It is also intended to provide clear, comparative information for patients and the public about the quality of health services commissioned by CCGs and the associated health outcomes. CCG OIS is an integral part of the NHS England's systematic approach to quality improvement.

The CCGOIS contains indicators from the NHS Outcomes Framework that can be broken down at CCG level, and additional indicators that can help to deliver improvements in quality.

NICE's role is to provide support to NHS England by managing the process of developing these additional indicators for the CCG OIS. All indicators from the NICE CCG OIS indicator programme are evidence based and draw on NICE quality standards, NICE guidance or NICE accredited guidance.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) is a key partner with NICE for the indicator development programme. In order to develop indicators, development and testing work with the HSCIC is undertaken to produce the indicators and accompanying technical specifications.

For details of the indicators in the CCG OIS please click the 'View CCG OIS' button where we have added the latest set of indicators for inclusion within the NICE Clinical Commissioning Groups Outcomes Indicator Set (CCG OIS) menu. This menu of indicators will now be considered by NHS England for potential inclusion in the 2015/16 CCG OIS.

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