The NHS Information Centre's prescribing support unit produces data that allows the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence to review current patterns of care; to estimate the potential cost of recommendations; and to monitor the implementation of their guidance.

The prescribing support unit's information on prescribing trends in primary and secondary care is particularly important, since it is used to monitor the uptake of specialist drugs, such as cancer treatments.

Nicola Bent, NICE’s associate director of implementation systems, says: "The opportunity to access both the IC's high-quality data and their professional expertise has been invaluable in producing and assessing the impact of NICE guidance that is related to pharmaceutical products."

Prescribing in practice

The NHS IC also provides NICE with sample databases of anonymised general practice records that show first-line treatments for conditions, such as hypertension, and the proportion of patients receiving more than one medicine for such conditions.

Aggregate information from the Quality and Outcomes Framework is also provided to identify trends, including the prevalence of long-term conditions.

"Analysis into how NICE guidance is being used is critical to developing our implementation strategy," adds Ms Bent. "The excellent partnership between the two organisations has undoubtedly underpinned this process - ensuring our knowledge and insight into the use of NICE guidance is based upon the most accurate, relevant information possible."