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The scoping period

The scoping period is the first stage of developing your guidelines, it is used to create a framework for the development of the guidelines. The scope:

  • Defines the population(s) and setting(s) that will and will not be covered
  • Describes what the guideline will and will not consider
  • Identifies the key issues that will be considered and lists the draft questions
  • Describes the economic perspective(s) to be used.

The scope also includes:

  • A brief description of the guideline topic (for example, a description of the condition or disease, health or social care services, organisation of services, or areas of public health practice)
  • A brief overview of the context (current policy and practice) in which the guideline will be developed
  • summary of why the guideline is needed and where it will add value, including how the relationship between commissioners and providers may affect outcomes and costs
  • How the guideline will build on, rather than simply reproduce, the actions required by legislation and statutory guidance
  • How the guideline will link to other NICE recommendations and quality standards that are published or in development.
  • draft outline of the NICE Pathway (everything NICE says on a topic in an interactive flowchart)
  • Potential equality issues among groups sharing protected characteristics and how these will be considered
  • Health inequalities associated with socioeconomic factors and with inequities in access for certain groups to healthcare and social care, and opportunities to improve health.

Decide what your guidelines will cover

Existing guidelines or policies for your condition may be worth looking at. You could try searching the Guideline International Network’s library of medical guidelines developed around the world and draw upon any existing guidance when planning your new guidelines.

Some key questions:

  • What groups of recommendations will you make?
  • What evidence are you already aware of and can draw recommendations from? For instance, if you know that there is research investigating symptom management of children, you know that you will be able to make recommendations from this.
  • What are the key issues and questions that your patient community face? Which aspects of care or service provision is advice most needed for?
  • How will you structure your guidelines? What main outcomes will be considered?

Take a look the above guide ‘What do medical guidelines normally include?’ and think about how you will fulfil each element, which you might leave out, or any extras you will add.

 For more information on the scoping process in producing guidelines you can visit the scoping chapter.

Agree on review questions

After deciding the key issues your guideline will cover, you should translate these into review questions. Review questions are a series of questions that you want to answer in your evidence search and medical guideline. They help keep your evidence search and medical guidelines focused on the original objectives of the project.

A review question might focus on the effectiveness of a particular intervention, the accuracy of a diagnostic test, or the views of people using or providing services, for instance. The nature and type of review question determines the type of evidence that is best able to answer it.

 Your committee should decide on the specific focus of each review question needed, and then go about writing them. Your set of review questions should cover all areas specified in your scope and should not introduce new areas. However, you can re-evaluate your scoping draft if you feel it does not include a key question that you have come across.