Patient and Public Q and A

This page gives general information about clinical effectiveness and its processes of guidelines and audit. Click here to view patient information for specific guidelines.  Learn about research evidence from the Cochrane Collaboration or the UK’s MRC/CSO. Read a guide to common research terms

or watch a short video explaining systematic reviews from Cochrane Consumers and Communication Group.

View a systematic review on involving patients and public in clinical effectiveness.

Patients have been involved in national clinical guideline development.  Read what they say about the experience.

What is Clinical Effectiveness?

Clinical effectiveness is a collection of activities and tools, based on research and measurement that are used to improve the quality of healthcare. The activities include, but are not limited to, guidelines, audit, research and evaluation.

What is the aim of Clinical Effectiveness?

Clinical effectiveness aims to ensure that healthcare practice is based on the best available data and evidence of effectiveness. It is a key component for improving patient safety and quality health service delivery.

How does Clinical Effectiveness work?

Clinical effectiveness uses information gathered from national and international research and audit to identify what practices are safe, effective and efficient.  It brings this information together to draw conclusions that help healthcare practitioners and their patients to make decisions about what is best for the Irish healthcare system and its individual users.

Is Ireland the only country developing Clinical Effectiveness?

No, other countries such as the UK and Australia are developing Clinical Effectiveness for their national health systems through agencies such as the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare.

How is Ireland developing Clinical Effectiveness?

Ireland is developing Clinical Effectiveness through the National Clinical Effectiveness Committee (NCEC) that the Minister of Health set up in 2010. Click here to find more information about the NCEC, such as who is on the committee. The NCEC role is to recommend guidelines and audit to the Minister for Health to become NCEC National Clinical Guidelines and NCEC National Clinical Audit for implementation in Irish healthcare. It does this by

  • Prioritising clinical guidelines and clinical audit that are important to national policy and the Irish health system.
  • Assessing clinical guidelines and clinical audit against criteria to judge that they have been developed in the best possible way. This assures that National Clinical Guidelines and National Clinical Audit are based on best available evidence, have involved key people, including patients, in their development and have examined the cost involved in implementation.

Clinical guidelines and clinical audit that successfully go through these steps are recommended to the Minister for Health through the Chief Medical Officer for endorsement and publications as National Clinical Guidelines or National Clinical Audit.

What do National Clinical Guidelines do?

Irish National Clinical Guidelines are defined as “systematically developed statements, based on a thorough evaluation of the evidence, to assist practitioner and service users’ decisions about appropriate healthcare for specific clinical circumstances across the entire clinical system”.

The implementation of clinical guidelines can improve health outcomes for patients, reduce variation in practice and improve the quality of clinical decisions that patients and healthcare staff have to make. National Clinical Guidelines will inform patients about the care they should be receiving and assist them to make healthcare choices based on best available information.

What does National Clinical Audit do?

NCEC National Clinical Audit is defined as “a cyclical process that aims to improve patient care and outcomes by systematic, structured review and evaluation of clinical care against explicit clinical standards conducted on a national basis”.  Clinical audit is an internationally recognised process that requires action to be taken where the audit identifies quality improvement is necessary.  When in place, the results of NCEC National Clinical Audits can inform patients of the structures, process and outcomes of healthcare and show them where improvement are being made.