Process and methods

10 Writing social care guidance and the role of the NICE editors

At the end of guidance development, the final guidance is published and the recommendations are incorporated into NICE Pathways.

This section describes the structure and content of guidance, and the role of the NICE editors.

10.1 Guidance structure

The guidance contains all the recommendations, together with details of the methods used and the evidence underpinning the recommendations. It should specify the date of publication of the version of the guidance manual that was used for developing the guidance.

The structure and format of the guidance should follow the template for social care guidance. The content is likely to include the following, but the exact structure will change as the digital approach to publication develops:

  • Sections or appendices containing:

    • Guidance Development Group (GDG) membership

    • a list of all the recommendations

    • a list of all the research recommendations

    • the scheduled date for review of the guidance

  • A short overview section discussing the need for the guidance, its aim, scope and expected audience and a section on service user-centred care.

  • A short methods section that cross-refers to the social care guidance manual wherever possible and makes clear where and why there have been any deviations from the methods described in the manual.

  • If relevant to the guidance, an epidemiology section consisting of a formal review of epidemiology data, including data from disease registries. It should not include general background or 'scene-setting'.

  • Sections dealing with the review questions and the evidence that led to the recommendations, each with the following content:

    • The review question(s) in PICO (population, intervention, comparator[s] and outcome), SPICE (setting, perspective, intervention or phenomenon of interest, comparison, evaluation) or similar format (see section 4)

    • A brief introduction to the review question.

    • The evidence review, including a summary of economic studies.

    • The meta-analysis (if this has been done for the review question).

    • The economic evidence review.

    • Evidence statements (short text summaries of the evidence on effectiveness and cost effectiveness).

    • An 'evidence to recommendations' discussion: a structured summary of GDG discussions on the trade-off between benefits and harms, and consideration of economic evidence, in relation to policy, making clear the justification for the recommendations (see section 9.2).

    • The recommendations.

    • The research recommendations (if applicable).

  • References.

  • Glossary and abbreviations (see section 10.2.3).

  • Appendices, which should include:

    • a list of the contributors

    • declarations of interest

    • a link to the scope on the NICE website

    • review questions and tables by PICO (population, intervention, comparator and outcome), SPICE (setting, perspective, intervention or phenomenon of interest, comparison, evaluation), or similar framework

    • review protocols

    • details of search strategies (see sections 5.25.4)

    • summary of numbers of studies identified

    • excluded studies

    • evidence tables

    • forest plots

    • full data extraction tables

    • full economic report

    • reasons for prioritisation of research recommendations (see section 9.8)

    • if the guidance is an update (see section 14), a table in the draft version summarising the proposed changes to the original recommendations.

    • anything else specific to the guidance, such as questionnaires, charts or examples of software.

10.2 Style

The guidance should be written in a style that can be understood by non-specialist social care practitioners and by anyone who has a good knowledge of the guidance topic but is not a trained social care practitioner (for example, a service user who has a good knowledge of the service options).

10.2.1 Bulleted lists

Bulleted lists are a useful way of:

  • simplifying and clarifying a series of points

  • dealing with repetition

  • dealing with complex paragraph structures.

A bulleted list should be used rather than a numbered list, unless there is a good reason to use numbers (for example, to show the order in which steps should be carried out or to indicate a grading system). This is because a numbered list can imply a ranking or preference that may not be intended.

10.2.2 Tables and figures

Tables and figures should be numbered sequentially and should be cited in the text. Information provided in a table or figure should not be repeated in the text.

Tables or figures from another source may be reproduced only if written permission has been obtained, usually from the publisher. It must be stated in the guidance that such permission has been received.

10.2.3 Abbreviations

Abbreviations should be used sparingly, and in accordance with the NICE style guide. If a term appears only a few times it is usually better not to abbreviate it. However, if general readers will be more familiar with the abbreviation, or if the full term is long, the abbreviation may be used throughout the guidance. All abbreviated terms should be defined at first use. The guidance may be downloaded in sections, so abbreviations should be redefined at first use in each section. A list of abbreviations should be included in the guidance.

10.3 The role of the NICE editors

The products are edited at key stages to ensure that:

  • they conform to the NICE house style and format

  • the recommendations are unambiguous

  • the information is clear and appropriate for the intended audience.

The NICE editor will also lead on developing the NICE pathway (see below).

10.4 Incorporating recommendations into NICE Pathways

NICE Pathways are a practical online resource for health and social care professionals. The recommendations from each piece of social care guidance are presented in a pathway consisting of interactive topic-based diagrams, or added to an existing pathway on a closely related topic. The pathway contains all the recommendations from the guidance, as well as any other NICE guidance that is directly relevant to the topic (for example, clinical or public health guidance and quality standards). It also contains links to adoption (implementation) tools and to related NICE guidance and pathways. The NICE editor will lead on this stage of development.

10.4.1 Involvement of the Guidance Development Group with the NICE pathway

During the guidance development process, each GDG is asked to nominate 2 or 3 members to work closely with the lead editor on the NICE pathway. The role of the nominees is to:

  • attend an editorial meeting

  • gather the views of GDG members on key issues concerning the NICE pathway

  • check for accuracy, answer queries and check revisions on behalf of the GDG.