NICE Guidance on “Needle and
Syringe Programmes: Providing
Injecting Equipment to People who
Inject Drugs”.
Professor Mike Kelly, PhD, FFPH.
Director, The Centre for Public Health Excellence, NICE
Public Health at NICE
• At NICE the Centre for Public Health Excellence
develops public health guidance.
• Established 2005
• 31 staff based in London and Manchester, plus
collaborating centres based in Sheffield,
Birmingham, Exeter, London, Oxford, Liverpool and
Methodological Principles
Methodological principles
governing all NICE’s work
• Base recommendations on the best available
• To determine cost effectiveness using the QALY.
• To be open and transparent and to involve
• To be clear about scientific and other values
• To allow contestability.
• To be seen to be independent of government, the
pharmaceutical industry and other vested interests.
Origins of this referral
• NICE does not choose the topics it works on these
are determined by Ministers and Officials.
• Prevention of infection of blood borne viruses.
• To consider optimal provision.
Stages in the production of
Scope drafted.
Public stakeholder meeting.
Stakeholder comments received.
Final scope and responses published on the website.
Reviews of evidence undertaken.
Public Health Interventions Advisory Committee (PHIAC)
reviews the evidence and drafts recommendations.
• Draft recommendations published on the website and
stakeholders asked to comment.
• PHIAC meets to consider stakeholder comments and evidence
from fieldwork.
• Publication.
115,000 - 200,000 injecting drug users (IDUs) in England
23% of IDUs report recently sharing needles
Over 40% of IDUs are Hepatitis C positive
IDUs are ten times more likely to die prematurely than the
rest of the population
In 2006, over 1400 deaths were linked to controlled drugs
• The optimal provision of needle exchange and
syringe programmes (NSPs) for people who inject
illicit substances and non-prescribed anabolic steroids
• Majority of NSPs are run by pharmacies and drug services
• Some NSPs offer other services such as help to stop
taking drugs
• This guidance refers to people of 18 years and older
• To reduce the transmission of blood borne viruses
and other infections.
• To get people into treatment.
• To help them get off drugs.
• To provide advice on safer injecting practices.
• To help avoid overdoses.
• Safe disposal.
• Access to testing , vaccination and treatment.
• Access to other welfare services.
• NHS and other professionals with direct
responsibility for NSPs.
• Drug and alcohol action teams.
• Pharmacies
• Local authorities.
• Voluntary and community sector.
Target population
• People over the age of eighteen who inject drugs,
opioids, stimulants or in conjunction. The guidance
also applies to people injecting anabolic steroids
and image enhancing drugs.
Needs assessment
• Collect and analyse data locally on:
– Prevalence and incidence of drug related
– Demographics of users;
– Coverage;
– Injectors in contact with NSPs.
• Make sure services meet local need.
• Consult users and communities.
Commission services which:
• Are targeted and generic and
– Increase the proportion of people who have
100% coverage;
– Increase proportion of people in touch with
– Ensure syringes and needs are available in a
range of sizes and locations;
– Offer advice;
– Encourage people to stop or switch to noninjecting methods.
Commissioning (cont)
Deal with safe disposal.
Encourage identification schemes.
Commission integrated care pathways.
Audit and monitor services.
Levels of service and availability
• Levels
– Distribution of equipment.
– Bespoke equipment and health promotion.
– As above with access to specialist services.
• Co-ordinate maximum opening availability.
• Ensure that opioid substitution services also offer
needles and syringes.
Equipment and advice
• Provide adequate amounts of equipment to reflect
• Provide sharps bins.
• Ensure safer injecting advice is available.
• Ensure that the hazards of using long needles are
made clear.
• Encourage people to switch to other methods of use.
• Encourage people to mark their syringes.
• Encourage them to stop.
In the community
In the community
• Provide sharps bins.
• Ensure staff receive appropriate training in health
and safety.
• Ensure staff doing levels 2 and 3 have training in
doing health promotion.
• Ensure that Hepatitis B vaccination is available for
Specialist services
Specialist services
Provide sharps bins.
Have appropriate training.
Provide the full range of equipment.
Offer comprehensive harm reduction services.
Offer help.
Opioid substitution therapy.
Treatment of site infections.
Hep A and B and tetanus vaccinations.
Testing for Hep B and C and HIV.
• Cost effective use of resources.
• Savings to both the NHS and wider society.
Evidence based
Reductions in risky behaviour.
Reductions in HIV infection.
Reduction in A&E admissions.
Reduction in risky injecting practices.
Reduction in incidence of Hep C.
The reductions in HIV cost effective.
Find out more
• Visit for the:
– guidance
– quick reference guide
– Costing statement and costing template
– audit support
– local authority planning checklist
– factsheet for commissioners
“First come I; my name is Jowett.
There’s no knowledge but I know it.
I am master of this college:
What I don’t know isn’t knowledge.”
The Masque of Balliol
Revd. H.C. Beeching
• It is very important not to get stuck in a very narrow
interpretation of what evidence based public health
• Must not fall into the trap of assuming the evidence
speaks for itself…
• All evidence requires interpretation.
• Absence of evidence of effect does not necessarily
mean there is no effect.
• Strong evidence of effect may not relate to the
important issue.
• So….
Interpreting the evidence of complex
interventions requires an assessment
• Plausibility: a scientific assessment – biologically,
organizationally, socially, psychologically.
• Likelihood of success: the nature of local
conditions married to tacit knowledge of
And it is therefore important to:
• Embrace a range of evidence
• Evidence from trials and from other sources of
systematic investigation
• Evidence from practice

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