The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has launched a new online tool - NICE Pathways - that pulls together connected National Health Service guidance into one easy-to-use resource.

For the first time, doctors and commissioners will be able to view and navigate all of NICE's separate sets of recommendations that relate to a single care pathway in a user-friendly electronic flow chart, as part of a bid to improve the use of its evidence across the nation.

The postnatal care pathway, for example, covers everything from the baby's first 24 hours up until the first two - eight weeks after birth, providing an immediately accessible overview of all recommended care, as well as links to other products such as the Institute's Quality Standards and implementation tools.

Launching the new tool at NICE's 11th annual conference in Birmingham, Gillian Leng, the Institute's deputy chief executive, said that 18 care pathways have already been completed and that the target is to have 60 on the site by the end of the year.

Good starting point

“NICE Pathways will provide a useful starting point for users new to a topic, while giving specialists confidence that they are up to date with everything NICE has recommended," she said.

The move comes under a wider plan to improve the digital format of its guidance, which, in future, is likely to remain a crucial element of the new system of value-based pricing for new medicines planned by the government for 2014.

While NICE's exact role going forward is yet to be defined, in his address to the conference health minister Earl Howe stressed that the Institute - which is to be re-established under primary legislation - will continue to provide independent advice to clinicians, and be a source of advice on cost effectiveness.