National Institiue for Health and Clinical Excellence

Annual Review - 2012/2013
public health

NICE advice for councils

In 2012/13, NICE published its first local government briefings – an exciting new initiative designed to support councils as they take back control of commissioning public health services.

The briefings raise awareness and provide information about the existing cost effective evidence-based recommendations and evidence reviews from NICE that local government can call upon when commissioning public health services.

They build upon our public health guidance and provide tailored practical advice for local councillors, Directors of Public Health and other local government staff which they can adapt to local circumstances to help them meet their new public health responsibilities.

The briefings - which are also relevant to members of local authority scrutiny committees - have been developed with input from councillors and local government officers to ensure that they are relevant to the needs of local government.

The first set of local government briefings were published in July 2012 and cover some of the major challenges facing today’s society – the use of tobacco, the lack of physical activity, and workplace health.

This was followed by three more briefings in October 2012 which looked at health inequalities and population health, NICE guidance and Public Health Outcomes, and alcohol abuse.

In January 2013, NICE published two more briefings on behaviour change and walking and cycling, expanding the library of briefings to 8.  A further four briefings are in the pipeline and will cover obesity, contraceptive services, spatial planning, and return on investment.

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of Public Health at NICE said: “The briefings contain tailored information which highlights why each topic is an important issue to tackle and how local communities will benefit as a result.

“For example, alcohol-related harm is estimated to cost England around £12.6 billion a year, of which £2.9 billion are healthcare costs.

“Reducing alcohol-related harm, by encouraging a more sensible drinking culture, will improve health by reducing the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and stroke), cancer and liver disease.

“It will also reduce the number of low birthweight babies, and reduce the levels of violent crimes, including sexual violence, and domestic abuse.”

All of the briefings are available on a dedicated local government page on the NICE website, created in the summer of 2012 to help councils keep up to date with all the developments in public health.

Working towards a healthier nation

NICE public health guidance can be used by the NHS, schools, workplaces, local authorities and the wider public and voluntary sector to help to prevent disease and promote good health of both individuals and populations.

In 2012/13, we published six pieces of public health guidance on topics including local measures to promote walking and cycling as forms of travel or recreation, and testing for hepatitis B and C.

Published in November 2012, the guidance on walking and cycling aims to encourage more people to keep fit by incorporating walking and cycling into their everyday lives, in an attempt to tackle declining rates of physical activity in England.

Despite the success of bike hire schemes across London, cycle use is lower in Britain than it is in other European countries, such as the Netherlands, Denmark and France.

The average time spent travelling on foot or by bicycle has decreased; in England from 12.9 minutes per day in 1995/97 to 11 minutes per day in 2007.

NICE recommended coordinated action to identify and address the barriers that may be discouraging people from walking and cycling more often or at all.

Town-wide programmes should be put in place to promote cycling for both transport and recreational purposes. These could include cycle hire schemes, car-free events or days, providing information such as maps and route signing, activities and campaigns that emphasise the benefits of cycling, fun rides, and others.

NICE recommended that walking routes are integrated with accessible public transport links to support longer journeys. Signage should give details of the distance and/or walking time, in both directions, between public transport facilities and key destinations.

The guidance also called for school travel plans to be developed and implemented that encourage children to walk or cycle all or part of the way to school, including children with limited mobility.

Watch the video with Professor Mike Kelly for more on this guidance.

In December 2012, NICE called for greater awareness of hepatitis B and C so that more people who are at risk can be tested and treated for the viruses.

Hepatitis B and C mainly affect the liver, and are the second most common cause of liver disease in the UK after alcohol misuse.

But early diagnosis and treatment can clear infection, and can reduce the risk of long term complications such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.

NICE recommended ways of promoting and offering testing for those at increased risk of hepatitis B and C in a range of settings, including primary care, prisons and youth offender institutions, immigration removal centres and drugs services.


The first set of local government briefings were published in July 2012 and cover some of the major challenges facing today's society