NICE process and methods

2 Topic selection

Topics for public health guidance are referred to NICE by the Department of Health, based on discussion at the public health Topic Advisory Workshop (TAW).

This chapter describes how NICE manages the process.

2.1 What is topic selection?

Topic selection is the process used to identify and prioritise which approaches to the promotion and protection of health and the prevention of ill health should be the subject of NICE guidance.

It is important that topics are relevant and timely, and that they address priority issues that will help to improve the health of the population. The topic selection process also ensures that the selection of public health and clinical guidance topics is coordinated.

2.2 Topic suggestions to NICE

Suggestions for topics come from a variety of sources including:

  • stakeholders

  • NICE advisory committees

  • TAWs

  • the guidance review process

  • other NICE guidance-producing centres.

The Centre for Public Health Excellence (CPHE) also liaises with a range of key stakeholder and practitioner groups to identify topics, for example, the Association of Directors of Public Health, the Faculty of Public Health and the Royal Colleges, as well as the key stakeholders mentioned in the consultation proposals (Department of Health, Public Health England and Local Government).

Once a topic has been proposed it is considered by the NICE internal topic selection group – a cross-institute group with representation from CPHE, implementation and field team leads, and quality systems.

2.3 The topic selection process

The topic selection process consists of the following stages:

  • Topics are suggested (see above). These can be broad topic areas, or specific suggestions.

  • NICE considers suggested topics at quarterly internal topic selection group meetings to assess whether they meet NICE's remit.

  • NICE produces a background briefing paper for those topics that meet the remit (see section 2.2 of Methods for the development of NICE public health guidance – third edition (2012).

  • NICE convenes a TAW of experts and stakeholders, including Public Health England and the Department of Health, where the briefing paper and areas for draft referrals are agreed (see section 2.2.4 of Methods for the development of NICE public health guidance – third edition (2012).

  • NICE conducts an internal check to ensure a good fit between proposed public health topics and any related clinical topics.

  • Draft referrals are discussed with policy leads at the Department of Health, who then prepare a submission to ministers for formal consideration.

  • Once ministers have considered the submission, 1 or more formal ministerial referrals may be made to NICE to develop public health guidance in the topic area.

  • Final responsibility for public health guidance referrals remains with the Secretary of State for Health.

Once a topic has been referred to NICE by the Department of Health, the CPHE senior team (consisting of the centre director, associate director and project managers) decides whether the resulting guidance should follow a standard or abbreviated PHAC development process, and to which PHAC the referral should be allocated. In some circumstances, it may be helpful to hold an expert panel to discuss the referral. The CPHE senior team may also decide that it is appropriate to develop more than one set of guidance, or to allocate related referrals across more than one PHAC. The CPHE senior team also make decisions about the relative priority of guidance referrals, based on public health priorities and available resources.