National Institiue for Health and Clinical Excellence

Annual Review - 2012/2013
quality standards

Setting standards for high-quality care

NICE quality standards are a concise set of statements designed to drive and measure priority quality improvements within a particular area of care.

They are derived from the best available evidence such as NICE guidance and other evidence sources accredited by NICE. They are developed independently by NICE, in collaboration with NHS and social care professionals, their partners and service users.

Our quality standards have continued to grow in stature over the past year. They are now central to supporting the government’s vision for an NHS and social care system focussed on delivering the best possible outcomes for patients and service users.

This year, our quality standards programme was significantly extended, as we began to develop our first set of social care quality standards.

Following the publication of the Caring for Our Future White Paper, we were referred several social care topics for which we were asked to produce quality standards. The full list of health and social care topics includes:

  • Autism in adults and children
  • Mental well-being of older people in residential care
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Children’s attachment
  • Domiciliary care
  • Managing medicines in care homes
  • Older people with long-term conditions
  • Transition between health and social care
  • Transition from children’s to adults’ services

The referral follows a pilot programme, completed in March 2013, to develop social care quality standards on two topics, namely supporting people to live well with dementia, and the health and wellbeing of looked after children and young people.

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive of NICE and Director of Health and Social Care at NICE, said: "It's important for health and social care services to work in tandem and the standards we develop will play a vital role in ensuring services are closely aligned to ensure effective, high quality patient care is consistently achieved.”

She added: "Having received these referrals, we can now start working with social care organisations and other experts to plan the work of these standards.

"This will enable us to co-ordinate their development - and any necessary guidance on which these standards will need to be based - as quickly and efficiently as possible once our social care remit formally begins in April 2013."

The standards were opened for consultation in 2013, and will be developed following the production of related guidance.

In February 2013, NICE and Public Health England agreed to collaborate on a range of areas. The collaboration is expected to further expand NICE’s quality standards programme in 2013, with the production of public health quality standards.

Quality standards in action

In February 2013, NICE produced a quality standard on asthma, which experts believe could drive up the quality of care for millions of people with the condition.

Asthma is the most common long-term medical condition in the UK, with around 5.4 million people currently receiving treatment, 1.1 million of whom are children.

Treatment goals are to help people manage their condition, and to lead symptom-free, normal, active lives. This is because a cure is not usually possible, as the causes of most forms of asthma are not fully understood.

The NICE quality standard for asthma contains 11 statements to help improve the diagnosis and treatment of the condition in adults, young people and children.

The standard includes a statement which states that people with newly diagnosed asthma are diagnosed in accordance with BTS/SIGN guidance.

NICE says it is important to clearly record the basis on which the diagnosis of asthma is made, because the process may have implications for the future management of the condition.

The standard also contains a statement that people with asthma receive a written personalised action plan.

The rationale for this is that action plans can improve outcomes such as self-efficacy, knowledge and confidence for people with asthma when given as part of structured education. This is particularly the case for those with moderate to severe asthma whose condition is managed in secondary care.

Emily Humphreys, of Asthma UK, said: "We're delighted that a quality standard is now in place for asthma. This will really help to improve the quality of care provided for one of the most common long-term conditions - so it's no exaggeration to say that if this is successful, it could change millions of lives.

 "We're particularly pleased to see the inclusion of personal asthma action plans. People who have an action plan are four times less likely to need to be admitted to hospital, but only a tiny proportion of people with asthma are currently offered one.

"Making sure this is implemented will be the next key test of asthma care in the NHS."

Our quality standards have continued to grow in stature over the past year and are central to supporting the government's vision for the NHS