Efficiency, equity, and NICE clinical guidelines

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.328.7439.536 (Published 04 March 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:536
  1. Allan Wailoo (a.j.wailoo@sheffield.ac.uk), lecturer in health economics,
  2. Jennifer Roberts, senior lecturer in health economics,
  3. John Brazier, professor of health economics,
  4. Chris McCabe, senior lecturer in health economics
  1. Sheffield Health Economics Group, School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), University of Sheffield, Sheffield S1 4DA

    Clinical guidelines need a broader view than just the clinical

    The stated purpose of clinical guidelines from the United Kingdom's National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) is to “help healthcare professionals and patients make the right decisions about healthcare in specific clinical circumstances.”1 However, what constitutes “the right decisions” depends on your point of view. For individual patients the right decision is that which maximises their wellbeing, and this is properly the concern of the clinician. Yet in resource constrained healthcare systems this will not always coincide with the right decisions for patients in general or society as a whole, thereby leading to some understandable tensions. NICE is a national policy making body whose responsibility is clearly broader than the individual patient.2 This wider viewpoint is reflected in NICE's technology appraisals by the central role afforded to cost effectiveness. We argue that the methods currently used by the NICE clinical guideline programme confuse these two viewpoints.

    Cost effectiveness analysis allows decision makers to improve efficiency by …

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