Introducing GRADE across the NICE clinical guideline program

J Clin Epidemiol. 2013 Feb;66(2):124-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2011.12.007. Epub 2012 Mar 8.


Objectives: Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) is a system for rating the confidence in estimates of effect and grading guideline recommendations. It promotes evaluation of the quality of the evidence for each outcome and an assessment of balance between desirable and undesirable outcomes leading to a judgment about the strength of the recommendation. In 2007, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence began introducing GRADE across its clinical guideline program to enable separation of judgments about the evidence quality from judgments about the strength of the recommendation.

Study design and setting: We describe the process of implementing GRADE across guidelines.

Results: Use of GRADE has been positively received by both technical staff and guideline development group members.

Conclusion: A shift in thinking about confidence in the evidence was required leading to a more structured and transparent approach to decision making. Practical problems were also encountered; these have largely been resolved, but some areas require further work, including the application of imprecision and presenting results from analyses considering more than two alternative interventions. The use of GRADE for nonrandomized and diagnostic accuracy studies needs to be refined.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epidemiology / standards*
  • Evidence-Based Practice / organization & administration*
  • Guideline Adherence / standards*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Program Development
  • Program Evaluation
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / standards*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • United States