Systematic reviews, incorporating critical appraisal of the literature, are generally considered to be the gold standard for evaluating evidence in the development of evidence-based guidelines (EBG).
Although steps within a systematic review can be conducted by one individual, it is good practice for two or more individuals to replicate the various stages of the process (‘double reviewing’); from preliminary literature searching through to critical appraisal of the evidence.
Double reviewing is considered to be extremely rigorous but is also both time and resource intensive. Within health protection, the development of EBG through this approach is often considered to be impractical. Systematic literature reviews, which are conducted by one individual are therefore the mainstay for EBG developed via the Scottish Health Protection Network (SHPN).
EBG developed with or without double reviewing, as part of a systematic review process, are recognised by the SHPN, with the former being categorised as ‘A*’ guidelines and the latter category as ‘A’ guidelines.
This document outlines the methodology for developing EBG, in the context of guidance produced under the SHPN.