This guideline covers diagnosing and treating delirium in people aged 18 and over in hospital and in long-term residential care or a nursing home. It also covers identifying people at risk of developing delirium in these settings and preventing onset. It aims to improve diagnosis of delirium and reduce hospital stays and complications.

NICE has published separate advice for the care of people with alcohol-related physical health problems, including delirium related to alcohol use (known as delirium tremens).


This guideline includes recommendations on:

Who is it for?

  • NHS staff responsible for patients in hospital (including critical care) and long-term residential care settings (including primary care healthcare professionals)
  • Adult hospital patients
  • Adults in long-term residential care or a nursing home
  • Family and carers of people with or at high risk of developing delirium

Is this guideline up to date?

We reviewed the evidence in January 2015. We found nothing new that affects the recommendations in this guideline.

Next review: 2018

Guideline development process

How we develop NICE guidelines

This guideline was previously called delirium: diagnosis, prevention and management.

Your responsibility

The recommendations in this guideline represent the view of NICE, arrived at after careful consideration of the evidence available. When exercising their judgement, professionals are expected to take this guideline fully into account, alongside the individual needs, preferences and values of their patients or service users. The application of the recommendations in this guideline is not mandatory and the guideline does not override the responsibility of healthcare professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual patient, in consultation with the patient and/or their carer or guardian.

Local commissioners and/or providers have a responsibility to enable the guideline to be applied when individual health professionals and their patients or service users wish to use it. They should do so in the context of local and national priorities for funding and developing services, and in light of their duties to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, to advance equality of opportunity and to reduce health inequalities. Nothing in this guideline should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with compliance with those duties.

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