14 Updating published social care guidance and correcting errors

Social care guidance developed by NICE is published with the expectation that it will be reviewed and updated as necessary. Any decision by NICE to update guidance must balance the need to reflect changes in the evidence against the need for stability, because frequent changes to guidance recommendations would make adoption difficult. This section describes the process and methods for reviewing the need to update NICE social care guidance and for producing updated guidance.

When scheduling updates of guidance into its work programme, NICE prioritises topics for updated guidance and topics for new guidance according to the need for new guidance. The relative priorities are communicated to guidance developers through the NICE business planning process.

This section also describes the process for correcting errors that are identified after publication of guidance.

14.1 Reviewing the need to update published guidance

14.1.1 Routine updates

After publication of social care guidance, NICE collects information that might affect the timing or content of a subsequent update. This may include any queries or comments received by NICE or the NICE Collaborating Centre for Social Care (NCCSC) after publication, and evidence submitted by researchers or other stakeholders.

NICE and the NCCSC do not actively seek new evidence, unless it is acknowledged in the guidance that new information is likely to emerge before the 3-year scheduled review that may result in the need for an exceptional update or amendment (see section 14.1.2).

A formal review of the need to update guidance is undertaken by NICE 3 years after its publication.

14.1.2 Exceptional updates

Exceptionally, significant new evidence may emerge that necessitates an update of guidance before the formal planned review. This might be a single piece of evidence, an accumulation of evidence or other published NICE guidance (such as other social care guidance or clinical guidelines). This evidence must be sufficiently robust to make it likely that:

  • 1 or more recommendations in the guidance will need updating in a way that will change practice significantly or

  • service user safety or safeguarding issues need to be addressed or

  • important new areas need to be included in the guidance.

Examples of such evidence include significant data from randomised controlled trials or major changes in costs. Exceptional updates may also be triggered if an error is identified in the guidance after publication (see section 14.2).

Determining the need for an exceptional update

The Health and Social Care Directorate advises NICE's Guidance Executive on the following questions:

  • Is the update necessary?

  • Is there any other evidence (published, unpublished or from ongoing studies) that is relevant to the newly identified evidence?

  • Which recommendations need to be reviewed in the light of the new evidence?

The Guidance Executive then decides on the need for an update based on the answers to these questions. If an exceptional update is necessary, the Health and Social Care Directorate commissions the NCCSC to carry out the work. Stakeholders are informed at this point by NICE.

The aim of an exceptional update is to be responsive to new evidence, so it is imperative that changes to recommendations are published quickly. The process for developing exceptional updates should be the same as that for conducting a routine update (see section 14.1.1).

14.2 Correcting errors in published social care guidance

Measures are in place throughout the development of social care guidance to ensure that errors in the collection, synthesis, interpretation or presentation of the evidence are avoided as far as possible. However, on rare occasions, errors may be found after publication of the guidance.

These errors may not always warrant changes to the guidance, in which case they will be logged for consideration when the guidance is reviewed for updating. If an error is found, the following criteria and process will be used to determine whether changes are necessary.

14.2.1 Criteria and process for a correction

Published social care guidance will be changed or corrected if an error:

  • puts service users at risk, or affects their care or provision of services or

  • damages NICE's reputation or

  • significantly affects the meaning of the recommendation.

If it is necessary to correct an error in a published guidance, the internal policy for dealing with errors is followed. The person or organisation who reported the error is contacted in writing and the rationale for the decisions and actions taken is explained to them.

The guidance and (if needed) adoption tools are corrected, and the changes are highlighted on the guidance's home page on the NICE website Depending on the nature and significance of the error and the time since publication of the guidance, stakeholders may also be notified by email. .

14.3 Further reading

Shojania et al. (2007) Updating systematic reviews. Technical Review, Number 16, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality publication no. 07–0087