The first two chapters of Best practice for the care of patients with tuberculosis: a guide for low-income countries include an introduction and guidance regarding implementation of best practice. The background to how the guide was developed is significant, as it was developed in collaboration with nurses and other health workers working in the most challenging settings. It therefore provides realistic and practical guidance for best practice where patient loads are large and resources are stretched. Guidance regarding standard setting and clinical audit is an important part of enabling people to recognise the strengths that already exist in their practice and approach those areas that require change in a systematic and practical way. The guide itself consists of a series of standards covering different aspects of patient care, from the moment they seek health care with symptoms to their diagnosis to early stages of treatment, directly observed treatment, the continuation phase and transfer of treatment. There are also standards relating specifically to HIV testing and the care of patients co-infected with tuberculosis and HIV. The standards themselves will appear in full in the subsequent chapters of this series.