Helping put NICE guidance into practice

Options for patients, carers and members of the public

Patients and members of the public, whether as individuals or members of organisations, have the opportunity to help ensure that the guidance* that NICE produces is actually used by the correct people, in the most appropriate way, for the right groups of people.

*NICE guidance includes:

How can patients and the public help local organisations to put NICE's guidance into practice?

  • Patients, carers and members of the public are in a unique position to identify when things are going well or badly in terms of the care they receive. By involving patients, carers and members of the public in getting NICE guidance into practice, local organisations can help to ensure that the recommendations from NICE are used in ways that are suitable, accessible and easily available to the people they affect.
  • Involving patients and the public in helping put NICE guidance into practice helps organisations to ensure openness and accountability in the process of “implementation”. Patients and healthcare professionals may have very different views from one another about
  • the sort of care that is currently being provided (and if NICE recommendations are already in place)
  • how best to provide or organise care in line with NICE recommendations.

This could have an impact on how easy it is to put the recommendations into practice.

  • In addition, the particular circumstances of the patients in a local area may need to be taken into account by healthcare or other organisations before any guidance is implemented e.g. the ethnic make-up or relative affluence of the local population may affect how certain recommendations are put into practice.
  • All NICE guidance is produced in versions specifically designed to be easy to read for patients and members of the public. This information gives people the opportunity to identify when NICE's recommendations are or are not being followed which may be useful feedback in helping local organisations monitor the extent to which NICE guidance is being followed. Local patient, carer and voluntary organisations can also help disseminate patient versions of NICE guidance to their members and contacts.
  • Finally, there are many national policies and local requirements for the NHS to involve patients and the public in its activities; helping to put NICE guidance into practice is one way that they can work towards fulfilling these requirements.

How can individual patients, carers and members of the public take part?

  • NICE's patient versions of its guidance can help people to better understand the treatment being offered to them, and to help them get the most appropriate care for their own situation. Having access to this information also gives people the opportunity to express a preference (if there is a choice) about which treatment to have. It also gives them the opportunity to compare the care they ought to be receiving with the care recommended by NICE, and to feed back any differences to their doctor or nurse.
  • Individual patients and members of the public can work together with their healthcare (or other) professionals to use the information in NICE guidance to support their own choices about the care they receive, and to help them make the best decisions for their own situation.
  • Individual patients and members of the public can also provide feedback on whether they think an organisation's arrangements for delivering treatment and care are suitable, and whether they have received any good quality, appropriate information about their care.

How can patient, community and other organisations take part?

  • Patient or community groups include patient organisations, self-help groups, Patient & Public Involvement Forums, residents' associations, parent-teacher groups etc. These groups can help to publicise the fact that NICE guidance is available on particular topics and can distribute copies to their members. They can also help to monitor how well NICE guidance is being implemented by the hospitals, trusts, local authorities, and others in their area; including identifying places where recommendations do not appear to be being put into practice.
  • These organisations also have a potential role in both identifying when national NICE guidance needs to be put into practice locally, and can help in interpreting how the guidance should be adapted to their local area. Groups of patients and/or lay people can help to encourage awareness of NICE guidance to both healthcare professionals and other patients/lay people, and can campaign to help secure changes where the recommendations do not appear to have been followed.
  • An important part of NICE's guidance is its role in developing plans to help improve the quality of care that people receive from healthcare (and other) professionals. Patient/community groups can help to encourage discussions between professionals, and patients and the public to ensure that these plans are integrated with the recommendations that NICE has made. They can also encourage the use of NICE guidance when contracts to deliver local services are being drawn up.
  • In some cases, the guidance that NICE issues can have financial implications for the organisations asked to put them into practice. Patient/lay groups can play a role in supporting professionals when they seek funding in order to implement the guidance.

What sort of methods can be used?

  • By developing teams and partnerships, healthcare (and other) organisations can achieve direct contributions from patients and the public in planning for and delivering NICE guidance in practice. This might be by recruiting patients, carers or members of the public as members of, or advisors to, specific committees or working groups responsible for implementing NICE guidance.
  • Organisations can ask patients and the public directly for their views on how well (or how badly) the process for implementing NICE guidance is being handled.
  • Organisations can seek feedback from individual patients and members of the public about their treatment and care to see to what extent or how well NICE guidance is being put into practice. This may be done in a number of ways but might include the following methods:
  • Questionnaires - to get feedback from large numbers of patients or members of the public on specific questions.
  • Structured interviews - to get very detailed feedback on specific questions from individual patients or members of the public.
  • Focus groups - to get detailed feedback from small groups of patients or the public, allowing them to offer information of importance to them.

Further reading