Exclusive: NICE to create 'GP advisory group' to fix concerns over guidance

NICE is in the process of creating a 'GP advisory group' to tackle problems that members of the profession have identified in how it devises and presents its guidelines, its chairman has revealed.

Professor David Haslam

NICE chairman Professor David Haslam told GPonline that leading GPs will be invited to establish a specialist advisory group to communicate the biggest problems with the current system and help create solutions, in an interview at the NICE annual conference in Liverpool.

A list of potential GP members – who are independent of NICE – have been identified and will be invited to join the group shortly.

The GPs will meet with senior NICE officials to pin down the major problems NICE’s current best practice advice creates for GPs, and then work with the institute to develop solutions.

GP guidance

The announcement comes on the heels of growing unrest about NICE among the profession, with many questioning whether the 16-year-old institute is working in GPs’ best interests.

Professor Haslam, who was a GP for 36 years, defended the institute on Tuesday during a debate on whether NICE was ‘getting it right’ for GPs. Earlier this month at the RCGP annual conference, he took part in a similar debate on whether NICE was a GP’s ‘friend or foe’.

GPs have flagged concerns such as not having adequate time to contribute to NICE guidelines while they are being devised, concerns that NICE’s press strategy is sensationalising new guidelines at the profession’s expense, and that guidelines are taking away GPs’ clinical freedom.

Professor Haslam told GPonline: ‘I have today started the process of setting up a small group of GP advisors within NICE who can look at some of the problems that have been flagged up both at the RCGP conference and today, and how we can best address them. I don’t want to come up with the solution until we know exactly the problems that need to be solved. Then we can work on how we best to address them.

Pressure on GPs

‘I'm really keen for GPs to get engaged with NICE as much as possible. We absolutely need their input, but I'm also aware it’s difficult with the amount of pressure on GPs at this moment in time.’

The group will explore what improvements NICE could make, including  how to make guidelines more accessible, how to allow GPs to contribute more to guidelines and if the group should establish a GP jury service-like system, which Professor Haslam said was among ‘a number of possibilities’ NICE was looking into.

He said both debates had been ‘encouraging’, and acknowledged that concerns around NICE were important to GPs, with Tuesday’s session being ‘one of the best attended at the NICE conference’.

He added: ‘The advisory group will be small, but I hope the average general practitioner will look at it and say that it’s a group that understands where they're coming from.

‘We've had some really good discussions both at the RCGP conference and here. I feel that most GPs want NICE to succeed and to be helpful to them in their careers. And I want to ensure that we are as valuable to the average general practitioner as we can be.

‘We know that most GPs use NICE guidelines on a regular basis, and it’s a means of ensuring that they feel really comfortable with the way we work and how we present our work.’

Photo: Simon Barber

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