Promoting quality

At NICE, our aim is to improve the quality of care for people using the health care services. Our guidance and quality standards help services to assess the quality of care they provide and identify areas for improvement. 

Professor Gillian Leng, NICE deputy chief executive talks about how NICE contibutes to quality of health and social care across the UK

What does good quality health and social care look like?   

A definition of high quality care for the NHS was set out in the ‘Shared Commitment to Quality’ (published December 2016) and in ‘Quality Matters’ for adult social care (published July 2017).  Both health and social care documents use the same three pillars of quality (safety, effectiveness and experience) and set out seven steps towards quality improvement. The seven steps indicate where NICE guidance and standards can be used to improve the quality of care.

What role does NICE play in ensuring there are high quality services everywhere?

NICE guidance topics cover all of the core health and social care services across the UK. Our guidance sets out what high quality, cost effective care looks like. 

We also produce quality standards which provide a focus on areas where we know quality improvement is needed. They help health and social care providers to assess their performance and quickly identify gaps where they might need to improve.

Alongside our guidance and standards, NICE also has other products such as our indicators and resource impact resources which help with putting our guidance into practice.

Our field team on the ground engage with professionals across health and social care in the UK. They provide local support to raise awareness of how NICE guidance can help to improve the quality of their services.

What should patients and service users do if they believe they are not getting good care?

Patients and service users can find a lot of information about best practice from the NICE website, and from NHS Choices.  This will tell them about the care and treatment they should expect to be offered.  They might wish to use this information to have a conversation with their healthcare professional about their condition, and the options open to them. 

In some cases there will be several treatment options available. NICE often provides patient decision aids when our guidance is published on certain conditions to help people decide what is best for them. 

How does this work at NICE take account of the tightened budgets?

NICE has always taken account of the financial constraints under which the NHS works.  We ensure that only new drugs and other treatments that are deemed cost effective are approved for the NHS.

Some of the drugs we recommend can cost the NHS tens of millions of pounds each year. To help manage their adoption by the NHS, we have  introduced a ‘budget impact test’.  For drugs that have a high impact on the NHS, companies will have the opportunity to hold commercial discussions with NHS England. The aim of these discussions will be to find ways of introducing new treatments which don’t affect other services.

We also have general advice to professionals to support the best, most cost effective prescribing of medicines.  Specific information about potential savings is available on the NICE website

What have been the biggest changes NICE has made for patients and service users in terms of quality in 2016/17?

Over the last year NICE has been leading a shared decision making collaborative. The focus is on helping patients make more informed decisions about their care. 

We are working together with national organisations, researchers and patient groups, all with an interest in promoting better decision making for patients. 

NICE will now be developing more patient decision aids to help make the scientific evidence easier for patients to access, and to understand.  We know that patients who are more involved in choosing the treatments they receive are more satisfied with the outcome. 

Now that you've finished this page we think you might be interested in reading about 'Quality standards' or 'Medicines and technologies programme'.