Background—There is currently a political enthusiasm for the development and use of clinical guidelines despite, paradoxically, there being relatively few healthcare issues that have a sound research evidence base. As decisions have to be made even where there is an undetermined evidence base and that limiting recommendations to where evidence exists may reduce the scope of guidelines, thus limiting their value to practitioners, guideline developers have to rely on various different sources of evidence and adapt their methods accordingly. This paper outlines a method for guideline development which incorporates a consensus process devised to tackle the challenges of a variable research evidence base for the development of a national clinical guideline on risk assessment and prevention of pressure ulcers.
Method—To inform the recommendations of the guideline a formal consensus process based on a nominal group technique was used to incorporate three strands of evidence: research, clinical expertise, and patient experience.
Results—The recommendations for this guideline were derived directly from the statements agreed in the formal consensus process and from key evidence-based findings from the systematic reviews. The existing format of the statements that participants had rated allowed a straightforward revision to "active" recommendations, thus reducing further risk of subjectivity entering into the process.
Conclusions—The method outlined proved to be a practical and systematic way of integrating a number of different evidence sources. The resultant guideline is a mixture of research based and consensus based recommendations. Given the lack of available guidance on how to mix research with expert opinion and patient experiences, the method used for the development of this guideline has been outlined so that other guideline developers may use, adapt, and test it further.
Key Words: guidelines; guideline development; formal consensus process; nominal group technique; pressure ulcers