About NICE

NICE decides which drugs and treatments are available on the NHS in England.

What is NICE?

NICE stands for The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. It is an independent organisation. It was set up by the Government in 1999. Its aim was to decide which drugs and treatments are available on the NHS in England.

The All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) makes decisions for the NHS in Wales. It generally follows NICE advice, but they are not obliged to do it. Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate organisations to make decisions.

The Government developed NICE to try to reduce the effects of the postcode lottery. The lottery led to certain people having some drugs and treatments in parts of the country. But they did not in others.

NICE aims to give independent advice. They suggest which treatments should be available on the NHS in England. It also aims to make sure that people have the same access to treatment and care wherever they live.

What NICE does

NICE’s main responsibilities are to:

  • assess new drugs and treatments as they become available
  • provide evidence based guidelines on the treatment of particular conditions
  • provide guidelines on how public health and social care services can support people
  • provide information services for those managing and providing health and social care

NICE considers whether a treatment benefits the patients. Also if it helps the NHS meet its targets, for example, by improving cancer survival rates. It also considers if a treatment is value for money or cost effective.

Where NICE gets advice from

When making decisions, NICE asks for expert advice from:

  • medical and other health and social care professionals
  • patients, carers and members of the public
  • NHS organisations
  • industry
  • social care businesses
  • local government

NICE issues its guidance. NHS trusts then must make those drugs or treatments available. NICE doesn't give any extra money, or advice on how to find the money.

How NICE works

The Department of Health (DH) for England and NHS England decide which topics NICE will look at.

NICE divides its guidance into 5 main areas:

  • health technology – specific medicines, treatments and procedures
  • clinical practice – how doctors and nurses should treat diseases and conditions
  • public health – health promotion and preventing illness
  • social care – services to help people with daily life at home, in care homes, or day centres
  • quality standards – guidelines that help to better a particular area of care

Independent committees or groups make NICE's decisions. These always include patient or public members (lay members), academics and researchers.

Related links