Needle and syringe programmes: providing people who inject drugs with injecting equipment, published in February 2009 by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), endorses the schemes currently provided by pharmacies and drug services in England to reduce the harms caused by injecting drugs. It sets out a blueprint of best practice for those working in the NHS, local authorities and the wider public and voluntary sector about the important role that needle and syringe programmes play in tackling the spread of blood-borne viruses, including hepatitis C and HIV.
The guidance states that there should be an increase in access to and availability of sterile injecting equipment, and an increase in the proportion of injectors who receive 100% coverage of sterile injecting equipment in relation to their injecting frequency. It also states that there should be an increase in the proportion of people from each group of people who inject drugs who are in contact with NSPs.
NICE also published a commissioning guide for NSPs, to support the local implementation of the guidance. The guide complements a range of other NSP implementation resources, all available from the NICE website.
It is expected that NHS organisations, and those commissioned by them, will review their current practice and consider the resources and time needed to implement NICE guidance.
A needle and syringe programme coverage calculator has also been developed, which is an online tool produced by Exchange Supplies for the NTA as part of the Harm Reduction Works campaign. The coverage calculator is designed to help estimate the extent to which the number of syringes being distributed to people who inject drugs within an area compares to an estimate of the potential need for sterile injecting equipment.
An updated edition of the guidance, PH52, was published in 2014. This includes new recommendations on people who inject image and performance enhancing drugs, and young people.
In May 2014, PHE, NICE and the Local Government Association ran a national Evidence into practice and policy seminar on the new guidance.
To support the implementation of the updated guidance PH52, PHE have produced a guide for centre teams, commissioners, and providers, and a summary of the economic arguments for investment in needle and syringe programmes.