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Health watchdogs and authorities

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) provides national guidance and advice to improve health and social care. It develops guidance, standards and information on high quality health and social care. It also advises on ways to promote healthy living and prevent ill health.

Formerly the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, NICE's name changed on April 1 2013 to reflect its new role as a non-departmental public body and additional responsibility to develop guidance and set quality standards for social care, as outlined in the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

NICE aims:

  • to help practitioners deliver the best possible care 
  • to give people the most effective treatments based on the latest evidence
  • to provide value for money
  • to reduce inequalities and variation

NICE products and how they are used

NICE products and resources are produced for the NHS, local authorities, care providers, charities, and anyone who has a responsibility for commissioning or providing public health and social care services.

Its guidance is produced by healthcare professionals, NHS staff, patients and carers, members of the academic world, and other members of the wider healthcare and public health community.

The guidance is expected to be taken into full consideration by health and social care professionals and organisations when making decisions with the person receiving care. However, it is not designed to replace the knowledge and skills of individual professionals.

Medicines and devices

NICE does not license drugs or devices. This is done by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA ensures that medicines, healthcare products and medical equipment are safe and do what they are supposed to do.

However, NICE does look at particular drugs and devices when there is confusion or uncertainty over their value or when prescribing practices vary across the country. A recommendation by NICE eliminates uncertainty and inequality in prescribing. If NICE issues national guidance, this replaces local recommendations and promotes equal access for patients across the country. 

For more information about safeguarding, consent, mental capacity and prescribing medicines (including off-label use), visit Making decisions using NICE guidelines.

Page last reviewed: 03/12/2015

Next review due: 03/12/2017

To find out more about what NICE does, visit its website: or follow NICE on Twitter: @NICEComms.

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