NICE to draw up quality standards for public health

NICE has been tasked with drawing up quality standards for public health that will drive healthcare improvement and inform outcomes targets for GP commissioners.

Lord Howe: NICE asked to devise public health standards (photo: Jason Heath Lancy)
Lord Howe: NICE asked to devise public health standards (photo: Jason Heath Lancy)

In a keynote speech at the NICE annual conference in Birmingham, health minister Lord Howe said the DH had asked NICE to draw up standards around alcohol, obesity and smoking.

The institute will draw up the standards as part of a wider public health quality standard programme.

Ministers have asked it to focus on harmful drinking, use of tobacco and obesity in adults and children, alongside ongoing work on similar areas, including smoking cessation support, preventing alcohol misuse and encouraging physical activity.

NICE is expected to publish its first quality standard on public health in 2013.

The institute has published 25 quality standards to date, which are lists of best practice guidelines for GPs and the wider NHS. The advice is designed 'to drive and measure priority quality improvements'.

Some of the measures have attracted criticism. In March, the GPC said rheumatologists could be 'overloaded' by a proposed NICE standard that asks GPs to refer patients with any signs of inflammatory arthritis within 24 hours.

Lord Howe told the conference: ‘Public health quality standards, alongside and integrated with those for health and social care, will provide a key tool to support Public Health England, local authorities and the wider public health community in achieving excellence.

'These quality standards will be followed by a consultation on further topics for NICE's longer-term work programme.

'Our vision is that over the next five years, there will be a growing portfolio of NICE quality standards covering all the domains in all three outcomes frameworks: health, social care, and public health.'

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE said: ‘We are very pleased to have been asked to produce public health quality standards. They will be a valuable tool for local authorities as they take on their new public health functions, and for Public Health England.’

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