Making collective decisions faces new challenges in the 21st Century: a growing expectation for evidence-informed decisions for public policy; policy support for involving relevant stakeholders from different backgrounds; and economic pressures which limit time and resources. The first challenge requires group members to engage with highly technical information in order for decisions to be based on high quality research. The second challenge arises from policy support for involving a broad range of stakeholders, including professionals, patients and the wider public, all of whom may consider the issues from different perspectives and some of whom may be unfamiliar with the technical information under consideration. This raises problems with information asymmetry, competing interests, implicit and explicit hierarchies, language and other cultural differences. The third challenge, in an era of financial constraints, is not only for committees to achieve the desired effect of high quality decisions, but also to do so productively with minimum wasted effort or expense.
This review was commissioned by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) from its Research Support Unit (a multi-disciplinary academic unit based at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE)) to provide a rapid assessment of the evidence for the impact of the structure and management of committees on decision making and outputs. Like the rest of the public sector, NICE must ensure that it not only uses resources efficiently and effectively, but that it also regularly seeks to identify efficiency savings. Committee meetings – including their administration, accommodation and servicing costs – represent a significant part of NICE’s annual budget, and this review may help to identify areas where they could be set up and managed in a more efficient manner.