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.

Quality standards cover a broad range of topics (healthcare, social care and public health) and are relevant to a variety of different audiences, which will vary across the topics. Audiences will include commissioners of health, public health and social care; staff working in primary care and local authorities; social care provider organisations; public health staff; people working in hospitals; people working in the community and the users of services and their carers.

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 all areas of care, from public health to healthcare 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.

How quality standards are referred

Referrals for topics that have a principal area of focus on healthcare are made by NHS England, public health by the Department of Health and social care by the Department of Health and Department for Education.

Quality standard topics for public health

A library of topics with a principal area of focus on public health has now been referred to NICE. This follows a public consultation to seek stakeholder views on the work programme.

Topics include preventing healthcare associated infections, promoting oral health, reducing tobacco use and preventing harm from smoking, preventing harmful alcohol use, and strategies to prevent obesity in adults and children. Topics are referred by the Department of Health.

Read the full list of public health topics

Read details of the public consultation

The NICE Indicator Programme develops a range of high quality indicators suitable for use across primary care settings. These indicators include those that would be suitable for use in incentivisation schemes such as the Quality Outcomes Framework.

The Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) is a voluntary incentive scheme for GP practices in the UK. The QOF rewards contractors for the provision of quality care and helps to standardise improvements in the delivery of primary medical services.

The QOF contains groups of indicators, against which practices score points according to their level of achievement. Practices aim to deliver high quality care across a range of areas, for which they score points. 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 disease prevalence. The results are published annually.


What is NICE’s role?

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 indicators suitable for inclusion in the QOF. NHS England and the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will use the NICE menu for QOF to help decide which indicators are included in the QOF within their countries.


Agreeing the QOF

The final decision regarding which indicators should be added to and taken out of the QOF is decided through annual 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 Indicators Advisory Committee are not involved in these negotiations.

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

The primary aim of the Clinical Commissioning Group Outcomes Indicator Set (CCG OIS) 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.

NICE's role is to provide support to NHS England by managing the process of developing these additional indicators for NHS England to consider for inclusion in 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 NICE indicator menu for the Clinical Commissioning Group Outcome Indicator Set is currently being reviewed and will be updated soon.

For more information or any questions - please contact the NICE indicators team.