Driving improvements in healthcare, social care and public health

NICE quality standards aim to drive measurable improvements within particular areas of healthcare, social care and public health.

Each quality standard consists of a concise set of prioritised statements that can help ensure care is based on the latest evidence and best practice. They also help service providers to quickly and easily examine the performance of their organisation and assess improvement in standards of care they deliver.

In 2014/15 we published 29 new quality standards on a range of diverse topics including acute coronary syndromes, acute kidney injury, and encouraging physical activity in all people in contact with the NHS.

Preventing medications errors

More than 350,000 people in England and Wales live in a care home, according to official figures. However, mistakes in administering medicines are not uncommon. A 2011 study showed that 9 in 10 care home residents were exposed to at least 1 potential medication administration error over a 3-month period.

The quality standard highlights this as a key issue in need of urgent improvement. It lists actions that should be taken to ensure that all necessary health and social care practitioners are aware of residents’ needs and can administer the right medicines to the right person at the right time. This includes:

  • Health or social care service providers sending a discharge summary, including details of the person’s current medicines, with a person who transfers to or from a care home
  • Prescribers who are responsible for people who live in care homes providing comprehensive instructions for using and monitoring all newly prescribed medicines
  • A multidisciplinary team undertaking medication reviews for people who live in care homes

End the postcode lottery of IVF treatment

In October 2014, we published a quality standard on fertility to remind the NHS that IVF treatment is a core part of NHS services and should not depend on where you live.

NICE recommends that 3 full cycles of IVF treatment should be offered to women aged under 40 who have failed to get pregnant after 2 years of trying, and 1 full cycle for some women aged 40-42.

However, fewer than 1 in 5 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England are offering the full number of NICE-recommended cycles, according to an investigation by Fertility Fairness.

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive of NICE, said: “Some parts of England are doing very well in offering the full NICE-recommended number of IVF cycles for all eligible women up to the age of 42. This is particularly true in the North, in areas like Northumberland, Oldham and Cumbria.

“Others are still to introduce a cycle of IVF for women between the ages of 40 and 42, but have at least committed to providing 3 full cycles of IVF to women under 40-years-old, such as Camden and Gloucestershire. But, many areas are not even doing this.

“It is unacceptable that parts of England are choosing to ignore NICE recommendations for treating infertility. This perpetuates a postcode lottery and creates inequalities in healthcare across the country.”


Tackling areas of growing burden on public health

In the same month, the Department of Health referred further quality standard topics to us to help tackle the areas of growing burden on public health.

We will develop over 70 quality standards in public health with topics including:

  • Healthcare associated infections
  • Antibiotic prescribing
  • Oral health
  • Skin cancer
  • Infectious disease (hepatitis C, HIV, norovirus, flu)
  • Sexual health
  • Domestic violence

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector for Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), explains how using NICE quality standards can help underpin the characteristics of good and outstanding social care services.