Clinical guidelines: promoting clinical effectiveness or a professional minefield?

J Adv Nurs. 2000 Jan;31(1):110-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.2000.01254.x.


The development of clinical guidelines as one means of implementing evidence-based practice is currently a topical issue. The recent Government White Paper, The New NHS. Modern. Dependable, proposes the establishment of a National Institute for Clinical Excellence whose expressed aim will be to produce and disseminate guidelines based upon evidence of clinical effectiveness in health care. There will be an expectation that practitioners adapt these national guidelines for local needs and particularize them to individual patients. There has been considerable debate in the medical press between the critics and advocates of evidence-based medicine surrounding the relative usefulness of clinical guidelines. However, there has been limited corresponding debate within the nursing literature, which has largely limited itself to descriptions of the implementation of guidelines. This paper examines some of the advantages and limitations of clinical guidelines as a means of operationalizing research evidence to promote effective health care. Finally, some recommendations surrounding the implementation of guidelines will be made.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / standards
  • Humans
  • Nursing Care / standards*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*