National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
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NICE consults on new end of life care draft quality standard

NICE has recently (24 June) launched a consultation on its draft quality standard for end of life care for adults.

NICE quality standards (QS) are a set of specific, concise statements and measures that act as markers of high-quality, clinical and cost-effective patient care. They are derived from the best available evidence, such as NICE guidance or other sources accredited by NHS Evidence. Quality standards are produced collaboratively with the NHS and social care sectors, along with their partners, service users and carers. They are a pivotal part of the new NHS Outcomes Framework1, which defines the aims and objectives in improving patient outcomes in the NHS.

Around 500,000 people die in England each year2, and for most people at the end of their life, being treated with dignity and respect, dying without pain and perhaps in familiar surroundings in the company of close family and/or friends is very important.

The draft quality standard contains 20 statements for the care of adults (18 years and older) with advanced, progressive, or life-limiting conditions who are approaching the end of their life, and for adults who die suddenly or after a very brief illness, in settings where care is provided by health and social care staff. It also covers support for the families and carers of people in these groups. The statements include ensuring people in such settings are offered comprehensive and regular assessments, which include the opportunity to discuss their current physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs and preferences. It also states that people approaching the end of life, and their families and carers, are communicated with in a timely, sensitive and honest way responsive to their needs and preferences. In addition, the draft standard states that people closely affected by a death have access to emotional and bereavement support appropriate to their needs and preferences, and that health and social care workers in all settings receive the appropriate education to develop competence in the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to care for people approaching the end of life in a safe and effective way.

Dr Fergus Macbeth, Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE said: “It is very important that at the end of a person's life, they are treated with compassion, consideration and respect. This standard will be a useful tool in helping all those involved in caring for people who are approaching the end of life deliver the very best care at this time. I would now encourage registered stakeholders to submit their comments on this draft standard via the NICE website.”

This draft standard has been issued for consultation; NICE has not yet published the final quality standard to the NHS.

The draft standard is available for consultation on the NICE website from Friday 24 June until 5.00pm on Friday 22 July.

This allows registered stakeholders to comment and help identify which statements are most important to support service improvement. All eligible comments will be reviewed by the independent Topic Expert Group and the standards will be refined in light of this information. The final quality standard for end of life care is expected to be published in November 2011.


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Notes to Editors

More information on NICE quality standards.

  • Quality standard topics are referred to NICE by ministers on the advice of the National Quality Board, a group of representatives from health and social care, committed to improving quality in the NHS and overseeing the reforms aimed at improving care. Further information on the National Quality Board is also available.
  • The quality standard does not cover condition-specific management and care, clinical management of specific physical symptoms and side effects, or emergency planning and mass casualty incidents.


1. The recently announced Transparency in Outcomes framework for the NHS proposes using quality standards to produce more detailed commissioning guidance to meet the suggested outcome goals. Please visit The NHS Outcomes Framework for more information.

2. Department of Health End of Life Care Strategy - promoting high quality care for all adults at the end of life

About NICE

1. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is the independent organisation responsible for providing national guidance and standards on the promotion of good health and the prevention and treatment of ill health.

2. NICE produces guidance in three areas of health:

  • public health - guidance on the promotion of good health and the prevention of ill health for those working in the NHS, local authorities and the wider public and voluntary sector
  • health technologies - guidance on the use of new and existing medicines, treatments, medical technologies (including devices and diagnostics) and procedures within the NHS
  • clinical practice - guidance on the appropriate treatment and care of people with specific diseases and conditions within the NHS.

3. NICE produces standards for patient care:

  • quality standards - these reflect the very best in high quality patient care, to help healthcare practitioners and commissioners of care deliver excellent services
  • Quality and Outcomes Framework - NICE develops the clinical and health improvement indicators in the QOF, the Department of Health scheme which rewards GPs for how well they care for patients.

4. NICE provides advice and support on putting NICE guidance and standards into practice throughits implementation programme, and it collates and accredits high quality health guidance, research and information to help health professionals deliver the best patient care through NHS Evidence.

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