1 Introduction

This guide explains how the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) develops guidelines on health and social care, and how organisations and individuals can take part.

1.1 About NICE and NICE guidelines

NICE is an independent public body that produces national guidance, standards and advice to improve the health, wellbeing and care of people in England. Decisions on how NICE guidance applies in other UK countries are made by ministers in the Welsh Government, Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive.

NICE guidelines make recommendations on a broad range of topics covering healthcare, public health and social care. (For information on other types of NICE guidance and advice, such as technology appraisal guidance, see about NICE on the NICE website.)

The topics covered by NICE guidelines include care and services for people with a particular condition or need, or in particular circumstances (for example, when leaving hospital). They may also make recommendations about ways to promote good health or prevent ill health, on systems and processes (for example, managing medicines), or about how national and local organisations can improve the quality of care and services.

The recommendations in NICE guidelines are usually for people working in the NHS, local authorities, and local and national organisations in the private and voluntary sectors.

1.2 How we develop our guidelines

The processes and methods we use to develop our guidelines are recognised worldwide. They are set out in developing NICE guidelines: the manual (published in 2014) and summarised in section 2.

Principles for developing NICE guidelines

NICE guidelines are based on the best available evidence. We also rely on input from experts from the NHS, social care, local authorities and other organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors. The views of people who use health and care services, and representatives of communities affected by the guideline, are essential to make sure the recommendations cover issues that are important to them (see how you can get involved for details). The box lists the principles that we follow.

Principles for developing NICE guidelines

  • Guidance is based on the best available evidence of what works, and what it costs.

  • Guidance is developed by independent and unbiased Committees of experts.

  • All our Committees include at least 2 lay members (people with personal experience of using health or care services, or from a community affected by the guideline).

  • Regular consultation allows organisations and individuals to comment on our recommendations.

  • Once published, all NICE guidance is regularly checked, and updated in light of new evidence if necessary.

  • We are committed to advancing equality of opportunity and ensuring that the social value judgements we make reflect the values of society.

  • We ensure that our processes, methods and policies remain up-to-date.

1.3 Equality and social value judgements

NICE guidelines take account of ethical and moral issues. Social value judgements: principles for the development of NICE guidance explains how Committees developing the guidelines take these issues into account when making judgements and writing recommendations.

We have an obligation to promote equality and consider how our guidelines might affect groups with characteristics protected by the Equality Act (2010). These protected characteristics are age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. When developing guidelines, we also consider socioeconomic status, and issues affecting groups such as looked-after children, people who are homeless, people who misuse drugs and people in prison.