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NPIS report 2019/20

Click here for the full NPIS 2019/20 report


Poisoning is an important public health issue and a common cause of hospital presentation in the UK. Around 160,000 presentations occur annually as a result of poisoning, most frequently in the context of deliberate self-harm. Many more patients are managed in the community, including by primary care and NHS advice services such as NHS 111, NHS 24 and NHS Direct. The National Poisons Information Service is commissioned to provide information and advice 24-hours a day to NHS healthcare professionals across the UK to support the management of patients with suspected poisoning.

The NPIS provides this information primarily via TOXBASE, an online database, which is also available as an app for iOS and Android mobile devices, and a 24-hour telephone advice service, staffed by specialists in poisons information and supported by consultant clinical toxicologists. The availability of this expertise avoids unnecessary hospital referrals and admissions for patients at low risk of harm, while improving the quality of treatment and shortening hospital stay for those with clinical toxicity.

The NPIS also hosts the UK Teratology Information Service (UKTIS), the national source of information and advice about exposures to drugs and chemicals during pregnancy.

During 2019/20, there were 685,745 online TOXBASE user sessions in the UK. The most frequent users were hospital departments and NHS telephone advice services such as NHS 111, NHS 24 and NHS Direct.

Delivering information on poisoning directly to individual healthcare professionals, the TOXBASE app provided users access to TOXBASE on- and offline at the point of care. At 31 March 2020 there were 18,879 TOXBASE app subscribers who accessed 224,778 app pages during 2019/20, representing a 47.4% increase from 2019/20.

While use of TOXBASE online and the TOXBASE app has increased, demand on the national telephone enquiry line has fallen, with 38,197 telephone enquiries received during 2019/20. The most frequent users of this service are NHS telephone advice services and primary care professionals. The number of enquiries referred to the on-call consultant clinical toxicologist increased by 11.7% during 2019/20 with 2,228 consultant referrals.

During 2019/20 UKTIS received 191,000 accesses to the openly available summaries on the UKTIS website, and a further 29,264 accesses to the detailed information on drugs and chemical exposures in pregnancy held on TOXBASE. In addition, 756,000 accesses originating from the UK were made to the publically available information about drugs in pregnancy provided by the bumps website.


TOXBASE in numbers