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How often should you review your guidelines?

You should aim to review your medical guideline on an ongoing basis to check whether the recommendations are accurate. If you find the recommendations are not accurate (for instance, if new research has been published that overrides or contradicts them), they should be updated.

How often you review your recommendations will depend on how quickly research into your condition is moving.

NICE schedule a review of the guidelines they publish every four years. If new evidence is anticipated, or the evidence base is large and moves quickly, reviews are scheduled for two years after the publication date. In exceptional circumstances, such as when medicines are withdrawn or there are significant changes to policy, a review may be brought forward.

You can find out more about how NICE perform their checks in section 13 of their guidance.

It is your committee’s responsibility to formally decide the frequency of reviews based on the pace of research into your condition.

How often should you update your guidelines?

It would be impractical to update the guidelines every time a new piece of research emerges. During your reviews, it is up to your committee to decide when enough research which overrides or contradicts the existing guideline has accumulated to make an update worthwhile.

If you believe an update is necessary, you must then decide the scale of the update. Do you need to do a full update with a new scope, or is a partial update sufficient? NICE has a list of the different options available and their associated scenarios, outcomes and actions in section 13.2 of their guidance.

To ensure good version control, your current guideline should:

  • Clearly state which version it is and when it was published (e.g. Version 1.3, June 2017)
  • State any changes from past versions, and where past versions can be found
  • State how often the guideline will be reviewed

It is good practice to keep a record of the healthcare practice centres you have sent the guideline to so you can send them updated versions in the future.