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National Poisons Information Service

2009 NPIS report cover

The National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) is the service to which frontline NHS staff turn for advice on the clinical management of cases of poisoning.


NPIS provides essential support for NHS healthcare professionals. It assists them in the diagnosis and care of patients, ensuring optimal treatment in cases of serious poisoning. Where toxicity is low, it offers advice to minimise unnecessary hospital admissions.

NPIS services include:

Public health impact

Poisoning is a major public health issue in the UK. Cases of poisoning account for more than 140,000 NHS hospital admissions a year.

One of the more common reasons for presentation at a hospital emergency department and for hospital admission, poisoning cases add significantly to the workload of UK primary and secondary care services and NHS patient helplines.

The National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) deals with a total of more than 578,000 enquiries a year, through its online database, TOXBASE ( and national telephone support service.

In addition, NPIS consultant clinical toxicologists support healthcare professionals with detailed information and advice on around 1,300 cases a year.

NPIS is commissioned by the Health Protection Agency, on behalf of the Department of Health across the UK.

NPIS services are provided exclusively for healthcare professionals working in the NHS. Members of the public should contact NHS Direct or NHS 24 for information and advice on poisons.

Information, advice and support

Assisting healthcare professionals with caring for such a sizeable and disparate patient group is a major and highly specialised task.

NPIS provides 24-hour information on exposure to a wide range of substances, including medicines, drugs of abuse, and household and industrial chemicals, through ingestion, injection, inhalation or skin or eye contact. In a typical year, for example, the service handles more than 30,000 online enquiries about household cleaning products alone.

Much of the information is provided through the comprehensive and constantly updated poisons information database, TOXBASE. The database provides NHS staff with quick and easy access via the Internet to detailed information on many thousands of potential toxins.

140,000 NHS hospital admissions a year for poisoning cases

578,000 enquiries a year dealt with by NPIS

Origin of poisons enquiries to the NPIS in 2009 and 2010
  Telephone enquiries (involving patients) TOXBASE sessions      Combined total   
 Country  Number Rate per 100,000 population*   Number Rate per 100,000 population*   Number Rate per 100,000 population* 
 England   42,999  83.5  386,996  752.0  429,995  835.5 
Scotland  2,156  41.7  52,791  1,021.4  54,947  1,063.1 
 Wales 3,892  130.2  29,197  976.5  33,089  1,106.6 
N. Ireland  643  36.2  10,967  617.9  11,610  654.1 

*Based on 2008 estimates from, accessed July 2010

  • Who we are
    The National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) provides NHS healthcare professionals with a 24-hour, year-round clinical toxicology information service.
    Added/updated: 9 February 2011
  • What we do
    The scale and range of the work undertaken by NPIS is considerable. The organisation handles more than 578,000 enquiries a year, providing support to professional NHS colleagues through its online TOXBASE database and telephone enquiry service.
    Added/updated: 4 February 2011
  • Who we help
    NPIS advises other UK and international agencies. NPIS experts contribute advice to official organisations across the healthcare sector, including occupational medicine.
    Added/updated: 7 February 2011
  • What we advise on
    NPIS provides information, advice and statistics on a wide range of poisonings, involving substances from pharmaceuticals and complementary medicines to drugs of abuse, and household and industrial chemicals.
    Added/updated: 23 February 2011
  • Maintaining high standards
    NPIS operates an active programme of monitoring and evaluation, to identity, anticipate, consider and resolve any issues that may arise, now and in the future.
    Added/updated: 23 February 2011