Quality standards set out the priority areas for quality improvement in health and social care.

They cover areas where there is variation in care. Each standard contains:

  • a set of statements to help you improve quality
  • information on how to measure progress.

View quality standards

Development process

Quality standards are developed independently, in collaboration with health and social care professionals, practitioners and service users. They are based on NICE guidance and other NICE-accredited sources. 

Example quality statement:

Older people using home care services have a home care plan that identifies how their personal priorities and outcomes will be met.

Home care for older people, NICE quality standard

How to use quality standards

Who are they for?

Anyone wanting to improve the quality of health and care services. For example:

Commissioners use quality standards to ensure that high-quality care or services are being commissioned.

Service providers use quality standards to monitor service improvements, to show that high-quality care or services are being provided and highlight areas for improvements.

Health, public health and social care practitioners use audit and governance reports to demonstrate the quality of care, as described in a quality standard, or in professional development and validation.

Regulators like the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted endorse the use of quality standards to help identify and define good quality care.

Are they mandatory?

No. But they can be used to plan and deliver services to provide the best possible care. They support the government's vision for a health and care system focused on delivering the best possible health outcomes.

NICE indicators measure outcomes that reflect the quality of care, or processes linked, by evidence, to improved outcomes.

Our single indicator menu is made up of 3 types of indicator:

  • QOF – general practice quality and outcomes framework
  • General practice for quality improvement
  • CCG – clinical commissioning group

Use them to:

  • Identify where improvements are needed
  • Set priorities for quality improvement and support
  • Create local performance dashboards
  • Benchmark performance against national data
  • Support local quality improvement schemes
  • Demonstrate progress that local health systems are making on outcomes.


Our indicators are underpinned by a robust evidence base and have been through a rigorous process, which includes:

  • development by an independent expert committee (including GPs, hospital consultants, public health and social care practitioners, NHS commissioners and lay members.)
  • testing and piloting
  • public consultation.

We publish all the background evidence used to create the indicators. We work in partnership with NHS Digital to develop and test the indicators and technical specifications.

Read the process guide (PDF).

Each indicator has:

  • A denominator, describing the target population included in an indicator
  • A numerator, describing the number of people in the denominator who should have the specified intervention, treatment or outcome
  • A description of the inclusions, exclusions and exceptions

Where relevant and available – we provide the appropriate data source or the business rules used to inform data extraction.


Managing and updating the NICE menu:

We review and maintain all indicators on the menu ensuring that all indicators are in line with the latest guidance.

New and updated indicators are added every year, in August.

Have a question? Contact the team indicators@nice.org.uk