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What is NICE, how and why does it recommend therapies, and why does it matter?

by Sarah Graham
Thursday 25 June 2015
1216 0

NICE is the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, an independent public body that provides national, evidence based guidance and advice to improve the quality and outcomes of public health care.

RSCPP uses NICE guidelines on mental health to recommend particular therapies for certain issues - for example, if you search for "depression", you'll see that NICE recommends Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy and interpersonal therapy. That doesn't mean you have to opt for a therapist who offers any of these types of therapy, but we want you to have the best information to make your choice.

What exactly does NICE do, and why does it matter?

NICE was originally established in 1999 to reduce variation in the availability and quality of health care services on the NHS. Its identity and structure has changed a couple of times since then, but its basic remit remains the same.

Since April 2013, NICE has been defined as a Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB). It operates independently from the government but is accountable to the Department of Health, which provides its funding. All NICE's health and social care recommendations are decided upon by independent committees of experts, not by government figures - so we know we can rely on them to guide best practice.

Officially, NICE guidelines only cover England, but there are agreements in place to provide certain NICE products and services to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Decisions on how the guidance applies in these countries are made by the devolved administrations, who are often involved and consulted with in the development of NICE guidance.


How does NICE improve outcomes in public health and social care?

NICE produces guidance and advice for health and social care practitioners, based on research and evidence about which treatments are most effective. They provide information for people working across the health and social care sector, and develop quality standards and performance metrics to ensure practitioners are providing and maintaining the best possible care.


What kind of guidance does NICE provide?

NICE provides a range of different information and advice, covering health care technology, interventional procedures and more. Most commonly though, NICE provides guidelines for particular health conditions, which make evidence-based recommendations on the most effective methods for everything from prevention to treatment. Broadly speaking, this includes:

  • The most suitable treatments and services for people with a specific condition
  • The most suitable treatments and services for people from particular demographics
  • Ways to prevent ill health and promote/protect good health
  • How to improve the quality of care

According to the NICE website, these recommendations "aim to promote integrated care where appropriate, for example, by covering transitions between children's and adult's services, and between health and social care."

As we mentioned, in the case of mental health care, this primarily means looking at the best ways of tackling particular mental health conditions, such as recommending particular therapies, medications and community services.


How does NICE develop their recommendations?

It's all very well to describe something as evidence-based, but what's the process? For clinical guidelines (i.e. guidelines on specific conditions), NICE uses the best available evidence from people affected by the guidelines - including national organisations representing patients and carers, as well as health professionals working in the relevant field. These stakeholders are consulted during the development phase of the guidelines and again after the draft guidelines have been produced.


What do the NICE guidelines on mental health cover?

The NICE guidelines on mental health cover a range of common conditions, including depression, anxiety and eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, but their list is not exhaustive. For each condition, the guidelines offer advice on the most effective and appropriate treatment, including therapies, medication, community services, as well as taking different demographics (i.e. older people, different ethnic communities, etc.) into account.

The full list of conditions covered by NICE is available on their website but the scope of clinical information given can be quite complicated to digest, so RSCPP has also integrated NICE recommendations into our search functionality.

Richard Snowdon said: "Including the NICE recommendation in our search facility is really important because it helps each person make an informed decision about which type of therapy may be best for the mental health problem they're experiencing. If your condition isn't covered by a NICE recommendation, we recommend searching for a therapist with experience of treating that issue."

Finding support

If you are concerned about the issues raised in this article then you may like to read about finding the right therapist for you. If this route is not appropriate for you, your GP can assess you and direct you towards support.

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Updated 09 November 2018