Interview: NHS Evidence chief Dr Gillian Leng - Evidence kitemark system 'beginning to take effect'

NHS Evidence's assessments of guideline quality are helping to drive up the standards of evidence used by the NHS, the website's developers believe.

Dr Gillian Leng

Later this month, NHS Evidence will hand out its first accreditation kitemarks to organisations whose guideline development processes meet its standards.

Dr Gillian Leng, chief operating officer of NHS Evidence, believes the accreditation system will bring benefits to users and guideline developers.

Speaking exclusively to GP, she said that the accreditation process had multiple goals. Its primary function was to enable users to readily identify trusted sources of guidance, she said.

A secondary goal is to drive up the standards through which guidance is produced. 'We are already seeing that,' she said. 'We have had discussions with organisations that have looked at what we are doing and are making an assessment about the processes they are using.

'They are genuinely keen to go away and improve what they do so they can be accredited, which is good.'

She added: 'The accreditation process is driving the focus to look at what organisations have to do to develop a quality product, with the incentive of being awarded that accreditation mark.'

The accreditation process will also be used to inform the way returns from searches on the site are ordered, Dr Leng said.

'With any search you want to get what is most relevant, but you also need to prioritise sources that are the highest quality. So accreditation will have the effect of pushing guidelines from accredited sources further up search results,' she said.

However, Dr Leng stressed that guidelines would not be removed from search returns if they had been produced by organisations that NHS Evidence had not accredited.

'When we first talked to users about NHS Evidence, they wanted it to be comprehensive,' she explained. 'People said they didn't want us to be filtering lots of things out,' she said. 'They wanted to be able to make their own decisions.'

Organisations have so far been keen to have their guidelines accredited, Dr Leng added. 'I think they are generally proud of the work they're doing and want it to be recognised,' she said.

Twenty organisations have applied to be accredited and, so far, three have gone through the whole process and could be accredited later this month: the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network, NICE's Centre for Clinical Practice and NICE's Centre for Health Technology Evaluation.

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