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NICE head injury guidelines: review of the legal mandate
  1. P Baines
  1. Correspondence to:
 P Baines
 Sandwell Hospital, Birmingham, UK;


This paper, while reviewing the legal authority held by clinical guidelines, examines the NICE head injury guidelines with respect to the likely consequences of non-compliance. Conversely, the effect on medical practice of rigid adherence to guidelines is also explored. Debate about the appropriateness of NICE head injury guidelines has highlighted the extent to which existing practices will need to change if compliance is to be achieved. Although a degree of resistance remains, there is perhaps a sense of resignation that the management of patients with head injuries will follow nationally prescribed guidance, whether in its current form or following its review next June. There will undoubtedly be those who remain unconvinced of the validity of these guidelines. Despite this, a possible reason for compliance may arise from concerns about the consequences of non-conformity. With the aid of a fictional scenario, this article seeks to remind the reader of the legal authority held by guidelines, the likely consequences of non-compliance and the liability held by their authors should compliance result in an untoward outcome. Finally, consideration is given to the possible long term effects that the adoption of guidelines may have on the medical profession.

  • Guidelines
  • head injury
  • legal
  • NICE
  • negligence

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  • Competing interests: none declared