NICE accreditation - raising the standard of guidance production
Professor David Haslam, Chair of NICE's Accreditation Advisory Committee, explains how the NICE Accreditation Programme will play a central role in the development of quality standards, sets out his vision for the future, and invites guidance producers to join him in his quest to help the UK become the world leader in guidance production.
"Like all clinicians I want to know that guidelines are as good as they can be and this is why I became involved in the NICE Accreditation Programme. The programme has a straightforward premise. It sets out to raise the standard of guideline production using a simple idea - that by evaluating the processes used in the development of guidance we can ensure consistency in quality."
NICE accreditation and quality standards
"The Government's health and social care legislation is clear that the primary purpose of the NHS is to improve the outcomes of healthcare for all. It also states that progress on outcomes will be supported by quality standards, developed for the NHS Commissioning Board by NICE. NICE quality standards provide patients, carers and the public, health and social care professionals, commissioners and service providers with definitions of high-quality health and social care.
"NICE quality standards will be derived from NICE guidance and other guidance accredited by the NICE Accreditation Programme. This new name for the NHS Evidence Accreditation Scheme, which launched in 2009, reflects the new, broadening role of the programme. Although NICE quality standards are not mandatory, their role is important and the Government is clear that, together with essential regulatory standards, quality standards will provide the national consistency that patients expect from the NHS.
"Accreditation really matters: For the guidance producer it provides a real opportunity to have a positive impact on the health of the population. For the health care professional it provides the confidence that they have access to the best available support tools they need to help them deliver excellent patient care."
How accreditation works
"To achieve accreditation, guidance producers are assessed on a case by case basis, against criteria in six domains, based on the internationally recognised AGREE II instrument for robust guidance. Guidance producers must clearly demonstrate that they are implementing rigorous processes to develop guidance - for example clear use of language in guidance, inclusive stakeholder involvement and processes for external peer review. Those organisations whose processes meet these high standards are recommended for accreditation by the NICE Accreditation Advisory Committee.
"Accredited organisations can display the Accreditation Mark on guidance produced to the approved process - this ‘seal of approval' gives health and social care staff confidence that the information has been developed to a quality process and reassurance that it will help them deliver the highest standards of patient care.
"In three years over 40 guidance producers have applied for accreditation. This is an excellent start. However, we can do much more in the drive to raise the standard of guidance production. Therefore, I would urge those who have yet to take part to take that step.
"For those guidance producers who may have some reservations about participating, it is important to understand that the NICE Accreditation Programme is a positive process. It is not about success or failure. It is about guidance producers taking the opportunity to test their processes to ensure that their guidance is as best as it possibly could be. That is what we are all in the field of evidence based medicine for - to continually strive for excellence, both in the guidance we produce and the quality of care this guidance encourages.
"Accreditation is not designed or intended to be an onerous procedure. Instead, it is a valuable process to help discover where improvements can be made, with impartial advice from an independent expert committee.
"Organisations who have taken part in the programme - whether they have achieved accreditation or not - have found it a positive experience because the feedback they received was extremely valuable.
"The British Thoracic Society and British Transplantation Society were among the first organisations to put themselves forward for accreditation. Although, understandably, they were disappointed to not achieve accreditation the first time round, they positively embraced the tenet of the programme, took our feedback on board, and put themselves forward again to be considered by the programme. I was delighted to inform both societies recently that they have now achieved accreditation. Both societies deserve real credit for the way in which they responded to their initial disappointment and for their determination to strengthen their processes for the benefits of patients.
"I hope their approach is followed by others - from organisations who did not achieve accreditation to those who have yet to participate in the accreditation programme. I know that all guidance producers have the same will to see the best care possible."
A future vision
"I have immense pride in the progress we have made to date, as evidenced by our new role in the development of quality standards and the interest we have received from guidance producers around the world. The NICE Accreditation Programme has already developed some international recognition and is currently being applied to international guidance producers.
"However, it is the future potential for how this programme could continue to grow which is really exciting. My vision is for this to be a continuous development programme for all guidance producers which sets the standard for the rest of the world to follow. We have a real opportunity to make the UK the world leader in guidance production. For this vision to be realised, we need the guidance community to continue embracing the programme. In this way, we can make a real difference to patient care. That is what we all want to achieve."
24 May 2012