Speaking to GP at the NICE annual conference last week, Professor Sir Michael Rawlins said that NICE's greatest impact on the quality of patient care came through its guidelines.
'Many of NICE's guidelines involve general practice,' he said. 'I don't think, though, that we've presented them in the right way. We haven't made them as easy to use in primary care as we should do.'
Sir Michael believes that the NICE electronic guidance access project, which is seeking to embed key elements of its guidelines into GP computer systems, will play an important part in making guidelines accessible to GPs.
He also said that NICE was exploring how best to include information about comorbities in its guidance.
'It's not easy, because often the evidence isn't there,' he said. Studies involve people with one disease, whereas patients tend to have several conditions.
'Nevertheless, I think we can do better than we have in the past and that's what we're trying to do as well,' he added.
Although guidelines for conditions such as obesity could include recommendations for the most common comorbidities, they cannot cover everything, he said.
'Sometimes I think GPs are going to have to take the reins and steer the patient through the morass,' he said. 'I don't think we can be produce a guideline for every combination of conditions.'
He added: 'For doctors there is still the skill and, indeed, the art of medicine for them. So we're not replacing them with some computerised machine.'
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