The decision to develop a NICE guideline or quality standard on a particular health, public health or social care topic is influenced by a number of factors.

Generally, the topics selected come either from 'libraries' of quality standard topics already referred to NICE, or from updates of previously published guidelines.

The focus on topic selection at NICE therefore is largely on prioritising existing topics. Alongside this portfolio of topics, NICE's commissioners(NHS England and the Department of Health) are likely to continue to identify a small number of new topics, which will have to be similarly prioritised.

On this page the approach to prioritising referred topics for guidelines and quality standards is set out, along with the mechanism for agreeing any additional new topics. The core elements of this process will be included in the new unified guideline manual.

This process applies only to guidelines for public health, social care and clinical topics, not to NICE guidance on new technologies.

Prioritising referred topics

Principles

As part of the annual business planning cycle, NICE will confirm the future year's work programme for guidelines and quality standards with the respective commissioners, taking into account available capacity and relevant integration issues:

  • Clinical guideline topics: NHS England
  • Public health: Department of Health
  • Social care: Department of Health and Department for Education

It is anticipated formal referral from Ministers or NHS England may not be necessary where topics have already been referred as part of the libraries.

Any subsequent, unavoidable in-year variation in development of the prioritised list will be notified to the relevant commissioner.

Annual Process for prioritising topics

Stage 1: initial prioritisation (August - September)

During August, NICE will prepare a long list of topics for prioritisation. This will be used to set the work programme for the following financial year. The following factors will be used to determine inclusion on the long list.

The long list will include:

Quality standards

a) New topics from the library where:

  • NICE guidelines are already available and current
  • New NICE guidelines will be published in the following year, in time for quality standard development
  • There are relevant accredited guidelines from external organisations

b) An existing quality standard that has been identified as needing to be updated.

Guidelines

a) New topics from:

  • The quality standard library
  • Previous referrals where development has not yet commenced

b) An existing guideline topic that has been identified as needing a significant update by NICE's Guidance Executive.

In addition to developing a long lists of topics, NICE will also

  • identify those ongoing guideline or quality standard topics that are scheduled to publish in the following financial year, for information.
  • determine the capacity for development in the following year, and develop a preferred list of topics for the following year using the criteria set out below.

Criteria for short-listing topics from the long list

Topics will be included in the short list for guideline or quality standard development if they:

  • Were identified as high priority during initial development of the library
  • Are aligned with national priorities
  • Have potential to impact on the outcomes frameworks in healthcare, public health and social care
  • Are related to a significant burden of care/illness, premature mortality or reduced quality of life
  • Exploit a development opportunity within a NICE Collaborating Centre.

Each September, NICE will confirm the short lists in the light of available capacity.

Stage 2: review against individual commissioner priorities (September - October)

NICE will discuss the short and long lists for quality standard and guideline development with the relevant commissioners to propose the next year's work programme. Commissioners will also be made aware of guideline and quality standard topics that are ongoing and due to publish the following financial year. These meetings will involve relevant leads from NICE, plus the following commissioning representation:

  • Clinical: NHS England domain directors, plus National Clinical Directors where available
  • Public health: Department of Health public health policy leads plus representation from any other relevant government departments
  • Social care: Department for Health and Department for Education policy leads

NICE will review any amendments to the short-lists following discussion with commissioning organisations, and agree final proposals with NHS England and the Department of Health (social care policy, public health policy and sponsor teams). This discussion will include consideration of the overall balance between topics for clinical areas, social care and public health. Once agreed the topics will included in the following year's NICE business plan.

Identifying new guideline topics

NICE will no longer actively seek new topics from stakeholders, as topics now come from the libraries of topics. For social care topics, however, there may need to be some further engagement with stakeholders as the programme is still relatively new.

Meetings with stakeholders will normally be held as part of the topic refinement process to identify the focus for guidance within the referred quality standard topic area. This process may require a new referral where it generates a guidance suggestion that is clearly outside the remit of the original referral from the library.

New topics for guideline development are likely, therefore, to be identified via the following routes as a result of:

  • new government or commissioner priorities
  • discussions at Quality Standard Advisory Committees or guideline development groups and committees
  • scoping new guideline topics from the library, or existing referrals, where it becomes clear that a related area is also a priority.

In all cases, NICE will develop a short briefing paper for discussion with NHS England, Public Health England, and the Department of Health (social care policy, public health policy and sponsor teams). The paper will include an assessment against the criteria given below.

Criteria for assessing potential new guideline topics

Topics will be considered suitable for a NICE guideline if they:

  • Have been identified by one of NICE's commissioners
  • Are aligned with national priorities
  • Have potential to impact on the outcomes frameworks in healthcare, public health and social care
  • Are related to a significant burden of care/illness, premature mortality or reduced quality of life.

Subject to agreement, a formal referral will be sought from the relevant commissioner. This will be planned into the work programme as part of the annual prioritisation process.