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They're NICE and Neat, but Are They Useful? A Grounded Theory of Clinical Psychologists' Beliefs About and Use of NICE Guidelines



They're NICE and Neat, but Are They Useful? A Grounded Theory of Clinical Psychologists' Beliefs About and Use of NICE Guidelines



Clinical Psychology and PsychoTherapy 24(4): 899-910



Guidelines are ubiquitous but inconsistently used in UK mental health services. Clinical psychologists are often influential in guideline development and implementation, but opinion within the profession is divided. This study utilized grounded theory methodology to examine clinical psychologists' beliefs about and use of NICE guidelines. Eleven clinical psychologists working in the NHS were interviewed. The overall emerging theme was; NICE guidelines are considered to have benefits but to be fraught with dangers. Participants were concerned that guidelines can create an unhelpful illusion of neatness. They managed the tension between the helpful and unhelpful aspects of guidelines by relating to them in a flexible manner. The participants reported drawing on specialist skills such as idiosyncratic formulation and integration. However, due to the pressures and dominant discourses within services they tended to practice in ways that prevent these skills from being recognized. This led to fears that their professional identity was threatened, which impacted upon perceptions of the guidelines. To our knowledge, the theoretical framework presented in this paper is the first that attempts to explain why NICE guidelines are not consistently utilized in UK mental health services. The current need for services to demonstrate 'NICE compliance' may be leading to a perverse incentive for clinical psychologists in particular to do one thing but say another and for specialist skills to be obscured. If borne out by future studies, this represents a threat to continued quality improvement and also to the profession. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Guidelines have many benefits, but the current pressure for services to be 'NICE compliant' may be having unintended negative as well as positive effects. Lack of implementation may be partly the result of active choice by clinicians concerned to use the full range of professional skills and to offer flexibility and choice to service users. The current context is creating a perverse incentive for clinicians to say one thing but do another. This is problematic for services and a potential threat to the profession of clinical psychology.

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Accession: 059125145

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PMID: 27885750

DOI: 10.1002/cpp.2054


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