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What are clinical guidelines?

A closeup of a doctor writing on a clipboard
You may have heard about ‘clinical guidelines’ in relation to Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinaemia, but what does this mean, and how does it affect you?

What are clinical guidelines?

Clinical guidelines are a set of recommendations that clinicians can use as a guide on how to treat patients with specific conditions or diseases, like WM.

The guidelines cover every aspect of WM, and provide recommendations including diagnosis, what therapies to choose and how to care for someone with related conditions or side effects.

Clinical guidelines are also used by the individuals and organisations who commission NHS services.

Why do we have clinical guidelines?

Having guidelines that all clinicians can follow is a big step in helping improve the quality of care for all WM patients. This means that no matter where a patient is treated, their clinician can find recommendations for their condition based off of the best evidence available

How are clinical guidelines made?

Expert consultants and scientists currently practising in the UK write clinical guidelines. They study the latest data and research to understand what treatments and care pathways work best for patients.

They might also take in the views of those individuals and organisations who are directly affected by the guidelines, most notably patients and carers, but also the healthcare industries, healthcare professionals such as nurses, and government bodies.

NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) will also take into account things like what treatments or therapies provide a good value for money for the NHS.

How does this affect me?

Your doctor will use the recommendations set out for Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinaemia to help decide the best way to care for you. For example, your clinician can use the evidence-based guidelines to help them decide whether to keep you on ‘Active Monitoring’ (also known as ‘watch and wait’) or to move you onto treatment. The guidelines will also recommend therapies, when the time comes for you to go onto treatment.

This means that care and treatment should be consistent and evidence-based, no matter where you are treated.

Do clinicians have to follow the guidelines?

No, they don’t. Although clinicians are expected to take guidelines fully into account when they are making decisions, they are not bound by them and there will be times when they feel that the recommendations aren’t suitable for a particular patient.

As with any decision about treatment, healthcare professionals should discuss options with their patient, and get their agreement to follow a specific pathway. They should also document any reasons for not following the clinical guidelines.

Where can I find the guidelines for Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinaemia?

The guidelines are written for clinicians and healthcare professionals. We recommend only reading these guidelines if you are familiar with clinical terminology, jargon and acronyms.

However, by reading the summary of key recommendations, you may gain some insight into how and why certain treatments are used, and get a better understanding of your own care.

You can find the WM guidelines on the British Society of Haematology website.