The NICE glossary provides brief definitions and explanations of terms used on the website. The terms describe how NICE works and how its guidance is produced.
Our glossary excludes specific clinical and medical terms. If you cannot find the term you are looking for, please email us so that we can consider adding it to the glossary.
Some definitions and examples are based on those in the HTAi consumer and patient glossary, with thanks to Health Technology Assessment International.
For terms used in social care, the Care and Support Jargon Buster from Think Local Act Personal is a useful guide to the most commonly used social care words and phrases, and what they mean.
An uncontrolled observational study involving an intervention and an outcome in a single patient.
Reports of several patients with a given condition, usually covering the course of the condition and the response to treatment. There is no comparison (control) group of patients.
An observational study to find out the possible cause(s) of a disease or condition. This is done by comparing a group of patients who have the disease or condition (cases) with a group of people who do not have it (controls) but who are otherwise as similar as possible (in characteristics thought to be unrelated to the causes of the disease or condition). This means the researcher can look for aspects of their lives that differ to see if they may have caused the condition.
For example, a group of people with lung cancer might be compared with a group of people the same age who do not have lung cancer. The researcher could compare how long both groups had been exposed to tobacco smoke. Such studies are retrospective because they look back in time from the outcome to the possible causes of a disease or condition.
The abbreviation of ‘Conformité Européene’. The CE mark is a mandatory conformity mark on medical device products placed on the single market in the European Economic Area. It allows a manufacturer to sell their products within the European market, certifying that a product has met EU consumer safety, health or environmental requirements.
The centre at NICE that is responsible for guidelines on clinical topics. These are recommendations, based on the best available evidence, on the appropriate diagnosis, treatment and care of people with specific diseases and conditions. Guidelines are developed by independent guideline committees, supported by a National Collaborating Centre, or by a team at NICE.
The centre at NICE that is responsible for producing guidance on diagnostics, highly specialised technologies, interventional procedures and medical technologies, and technology appraisal guidance. The guidance is developed by independent committees.
An advisory body made up of 30 members of the public, representing the UK. The Council considers any social and moral issues raised by NICE's recommendations. It also produces reports for NICE that reflect the public's perspective on the issue. These are used to help write NICE's Social value judgements document. This sets out the principles that guidance developers should follow when deciding which treatments to recommend.
Support to 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.
The effect that something is likely to have on the treatment of a particular group of people, or on the results of treating that group.
A benefit from treatment that relates to an important outcome such as length of life, and is large enough to be important to patients and health professionals. As an example, it might include a general reduction in symptoms, less pain or improved breathing.
Effects identified as statistically significant are not always clinically significant, because the effect is small or the outcome is not important. For example, if a treatment might lower blood pressure but there may be no evidence that this leads to an important clinical outcome, such as a lower risk of stroke or heart attack.
A study to determine whether a treatment is safe and effective. It is carried out with a sample of patients, usually after laboratory studies and studies with healthy volunteers have been conducted. The trial is set up to answer 1 or more questions, for example, does the treatment have any adverse side effects and, if so, how serious are they?
A healthcare professional who provides patient care. For example, a doctor, nurse, pharmacist or physiotherapist.
An international organisation that produces systematic reviews of the evidence from primary research relating to a particular health problem or healthcare intervention. See also Cochrane Library.
A code of conduct developed by NICE for members of guidance committees, and other people who attend committee meetings. This code sets out the responsibilities of NICE and the committees, and the principles of transparency and confidentiality.
See Prospective cohort study
People (commentators) invited by NICE to take part in the appraisal process and comment on the various documents produced during the process. Unlike consultees, commentators cannot appeal against the final appraisal document.
The advisory group that considers the evidence and develops the recommendations, taking into account the views of stakeholders. NICE has standing committees (which work on multiple guidelines) and topic-specific committees (which are put together for a single guideline topic). Members include practitioners and professionals (both specialists and generalists, and/or academics), care providers and commissioners, people using health and care services and/or their family members or carers, or people from communities affected by the guideline.
Information supplied by the company about a drug or other treatment that is being assessed in a technology appraisal or highly specialised technology evaluation. The information includes evidence about how well the treatment works, and its value for money.
The standard (for example, another intervention or usual care) against which an intervention is compared in a study. The comparator can be no intervention (for example, best supportive care).
A way of expressing how certain we are about the findings from a study, using statistics. It gives a range of results that is likely to include the 'true' value for the population. A wide confidence interval indicates a lack of certainty about the true effect of the test or treatment - often because a small group of patients has been studied. A narrow confidence interval indicates a more precise estimate (for example, if a large number of patients have been studied).
The confidence interval is usually stated as '95% CI', which means that the range of values has a 95 in a 100 chance of including the 'true' value. For example, a study may state that 'based on our sample findings, we are 95% certain that the 'true' population blood pressure is not higher than 150 and not lower than 110'. In such a case the 95% CI would be 110 to 150.
An interest that might conflict, or be perceived to conflict, with a person's duties and responsibilities during guidance development. NICE staff, contractors and committee members declare any potential interests, and do not take part in discussions in which they have a conflict of interests (for example, because they are doing consultancy work for another organisation).
In a study, confounding occurs when the effect of an intervention on an outcome is distorted because of an association between the population or intervention or outcome and another factor (the 'confounding variable' or 'confounder') that can influence the outcome independently of the intervention under investigation.
For example, a study of heart disease may look at a group of people who exercise regularly and a group who do not exercise. If the ages of the people in the 2 groups are different, then any difference in heart disease rates between the 2 groups could be because of age rather than exercise. Therefore age is a confounding factor.
Techniques that aim to reach an agreement on a particular issue. Formal consensus methods include Delphi and nominal group techniques, and consensus development conferences. When developing NICE guidelines, consensus methods may be used when there is a lack of strong research evidence on a particular topic
The degree of similarity between the conclusions of different studies on the same topic. See also Homogeneity.
An organisation or individual invited to comment during development of NICE guidance. Consultees can submit evidence, comment on the draft documents and appeal against a committee's final recommendations. Consultee organisations include:
A group of people in a study who do not have the intervention or test being studied. Instead, they may have the standard intervention (sometimes called 'usual care') or a dummy intervention (placebo). The results for the control group are compared with those for a group having the intervention being tested. The aim is to check for any differences.
Ideally, the people in the control group should be as similar as possible to those in the intervention group, to make it as easy as possible to detect any effects due to the intervention.
A study testing a specific treatment by using 2 (or more) groups of patients. The experimental group has the treatment being tested. The comparison (or control) group has an alternative treatment, a dummy treatment (placebo) or no treatment. The 2 groups are compared to see how effective the experimental treatment was.
If patients are randomly allocated to treatment and comparison groups, this is called a randomised controlled trial.
An analysis that assesses the cost of achieving a benefit by different means. The benefits are expressed in non-monetary terms related to health, such as symptom-free days, heart attacks avoided, deaths avoided or life years gained (that is, the number of years by which life is extended as a result of the intervention). Options are often compared on the cost incurred to achieve 1 outcome (for example, cost per death avoided).
One of the tools used to carry out an economic evaluation. The benefits are assessed in terms of both quality and duration of life, and expressed as quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). See also Utility.
Reviewing a study to judge the quality of the method used and the reliability of the conclusions.
A study comparing 2 or more treatments. Once people in the study have completed a course of 1 treatment they are switched to a different treatment. For example, for a comparison of treatments A and B, half the people would have A first followed by B. The other half would have treatment B first followed by A.
A 'snapshot' observation of a set of people at 1 time. This type of study (sometimes called a cross-sectional survey) contrasts with a longitudinal study, which follows a set of people over a period of time.
Culturally appropriate interventions take account of cultural or religious beliefs, and language and literacy skills by: