More about clinical guidelines

Clinical guidelines make recommendations on the appropriate treatment and care of people with specific diseases and conditions. A good clinical guideline will assist decision-makers in changing the process of healthcare to improve outcomes for patients, ensure the efficient use of health care resources, and reduce current variations to practice. They can also be used in the education and training of health care professionals. They contribute to the NHS's developmental standards of care.

Principles of Nursing Practice

Using clinical guidelines supports the implementation of the RCN Principles of Nursing Practice.

The Principles articulate what can be expected of nursing in any setting regardless of provider, and were developed with a range of stakeholders, including nurses, patients and service users.

There are particularly clear links between use of clinical guidelines and Principle F (awareness and appropriate use of up to date evidence), as well as Principle G (ensuring patients’ care is co-ordinated and of a high standard). However, all of the Principles of Nursing Practice are relevant to the effective uptake of clinical guidelines, and it is important to consider and incorporate all of the Principles as part of the implementation process.

For further information about the Principles of Nursing Practice, including how they are used to support evidence-based quality improvement initiatives, visit the Principles of Nursing Practice.

Learning opportunity

If you would like to find out more about the development and use of clinical guidelines across the four UK countries there is a learning area on Clinical guideline development in the RCN Learning Zone. It will help you to understand, find, appraise and implement clinical guidelines.

You can find clinical guideline development in the clinical skills section of the RCN Learning Zone.

National guideline development

Agencies responsible for commissioning and developing clinical guidelines at national level:

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is responsible for providing national guidance for clinical practice on the appropriate treatment and care of people with specific diseases and conditions within the NHS and develops clinical guidelines for England and Wales. For further information on NICE processes for developing guidelines, go to: Developing NICE clinical guidelines.
  • National Clinical Guideline Centre (NCGC) is a multi-disciplinary health services research team funded by NICE. It produces evidence based clinical practice guidelines which aim to improve the quality of patient care within the NHS in England and Wales.
  • Guidelines and Audit Implementation Network (GAIN), which incorporates the former Clinical Resources Efficiency Support Team (CREST), has a major safety and quality improvement role throughout Northern Ireland in the commissioning of regional audit and guidelines. The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety also has a formal link with NICE under which all NICE guidance is reviewed locally for its applicability to Northern Ireland.
  • Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) develops clinical guidelines for the NHS in Scotland. SIGN's topic selection process takes into account the work programmes of NICE as well as NHS Quality Improvement Scotland (NHS QIS). For further information on how the guidelines are developed see SIGN methodology - guideline development process.

NICE consultation gateway

If you would like to know more about how you can contribute to the guidance produced by NICE, visit the NICE Consultation Gateway. This includes examples of how nurses have participated in the NICE programme.

Go to stories from nurses who have been involved.