In the UK, as elsewhere in the world, there is abundant evidence of unacceptable inequalities and inefficiencies in health care. These failures are manifest in various ways including inappropriate variations in the uptake and use of health technologies of proven value, the too frequent failure to provide patients with optimum care for the treatment of common diseases, and the too ready adoption of health technologies with no established clinical benefits. Healthcare systems worldwide are therefore struggling to find ways to ensure that their health professionals are able to provide patients with the highest possible (and affordable) standards of clinical care. The British government has committed itself to a programme of enhancing the quality of care given to National Health Service (NHS) patients. The new National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has been charge with providing NHS staff with clear and robust advice that will help them meet their own, and their patients', aspirations. The Institute's guidance will cover individual technologies as well as the management of a wide range of conditions. NICE will also advise on appropriate methods of clinical audit in those areas where it has provided guidance.