Letters

I noted with interest your news story 'Ineffective public bodies face the axe' (page 4, 28 June).

While there has been speculation regarding the future of a number of organisations following the 'bonfire of the quangos' in Scotland, it was misleading to refer to the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) in this context - particularly as SIGN did not feature in this particular policy document.

Far from being 'ineffective', SIGN has now developed over 50 evidence-based clinical guidelines since it was established in 1993, and our work in improving the clinical effectiveness of Scottish medicine has gained international recognition. SIGN guideline-development methodology has been recommended for use by the Council of Europe for clinical guideline development in over 50 member states, and SIGN is also working with the World Health Organisation in this area.

We wish to correct the statement that SIGN's clinical priorities are the 'enthusiasm of individuals'. SIGN guidelines are developed following a rigorous topic selection procedure to identify the need for the guideline, taking into account evidence of variation in practice in NHS Scotland and evidence of effective practice and the potential to improve outcomes for patients. There is also widespread consultation, and we are increasingly working to match new topics for guideline development with national clinical priorities where this is possible. SIGN has, for example, already developed five major cancer clinical guidelines, the importance of which is prominently recognised in the recently launched 'cancer plan'.

Dr Grahame Howard Acting chair of SIGN Council Edinburgh