NGC methodology

The National Guideline Centre (NGC) bases its clinical guidelines on the best available research evidence, with the aim of improving the quality of healthcare. Predetermined and systematic methods are used to identify and evaluate the evidence relating to specific clinical questions.

Developing clinical guidelines

What is a guideline?

Our guidelines provide recommendations for the care of individuals with specific clinical conditions, social care topics or on delivery of the service. Recommendations can cover prevention and self-care, primary and secondary care treatments and interventions, more specialised services, social care and organisation of the services delivering care. We base our guidelines on the best available research evidence, with the aim of improving the quality of healthcare. Predetermined and systematic methods are used to identify and evaluate the evidence relating to specific review questions.

Guidelines can:

  • provide recommendations for the treatment and care of people by health professionals
  • be used to develop standards to assess the clinical practice of individual health professionals 
  • be used in the education and training of health professionals
  • help patients to make informed decisions
  • improve communication between patient and health professional.

While guidelines assist the practice of healthcare professionals, they do not replace their knowledge and skills.

Who develops the guidelines

Each guideline is overseen by an independent guideline committee (GC), which consist of experts in the guideline topic such as lay members, carers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other allied health professionals. An open process to recruit members to GCs is conducted by the NGC in the early stages of development for each commissioned guideline. These are advertised on the NICE Website. The appointed GC meet on a regular basis to interpret the evidence presented by the NGC technical team and together recommendations are drafted.

Stages in guideline development

The following provides a brief summary of how we develop guidelines. For more detailed information please refer to the Developing NICE guidelines: the manual.

1. The guideline topic is referred

The Department of Health refers guideline topics to NICE, which commissions one of its guideline centres to produce the guidelines.

2. Stakeholders register an interest  

Stakeholders are usually: 

  • national organisations representing patients and carers, service users and/or healthcare professionals
  • companies that manufacture medicines or devices related to the guideline topic
  • providers and commissioners of health and social care services,
  • statutory organisations, research organisations that have produced nationally recognised research related to the guideline topic.

Read more about stakeholder registration on the NICE website. Stakeholders are consulted throughout the guideline development process.

3. The scope is prepared by the NGC

The NGC prepares the scope. This document sets out what the guideline will and will not cover. NICE, registered stakeholders and an independent guideline review panel all contribute to the development of the scope.

4. The guideline committee is established

The NGC establishes the guideline committee (GC) through an open recruitment process. The GC consists of health and social care professionals, patient and carer representatives and technical experts.

5. A draft guideline is produced

The NGC searches for and reviews the best available evidence according to the methodology set by NICE (see Developing NICE guidelines: the manual). The GC assesses the evidence and makes recommendations.

6. Consultation on the draft guideline

There is a public consultation period for registered stakeholders to comment on the draft guideline.

7. The final guideline is produced

Once the stakeholder comments have been considered and the guideline updated, the NGC produces the final guideline.

8. The Guidance is issued

NICE formally approves the final guideline and issues its guidance to the NHS.