NICE granted wider role as local government advisors

NICE will adopt an even larger role in health policy after being given the go-ahead to advise local authorities on which public health schemes are value for money.

The new role, first reported by GP in July, will see NICE advise local directors of public health on which schemes are value for money and effective. The institute will use similar methods employed to assess the value of new drugs.

It signals the latest step in an expanding role for the institute, which covers health, social and now local government policy.

NICE was handed the role after a 'return-on-investment' study that it was commissioned by the DH to perform found that many public health interventions are effective and good value for money.

Professor Mike Kelly, NICE's director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence, said the 'briefings' it will produce would provide 'tailored practical advice' to help authorities, who are to take over responsibility for public health under the NHS reforms.

He added: 'The briefings will distil the recommendations from existing NICE public health and clinical guidance on a range of essential topics such as tackling tobacco and obesity, increasing physical activity, and topics on alcohol and health, and workplace health.'

The advice will help raise awareness of those public health activities and approaches which are proven to be effective, and how they can not only improve the health of local people, but also often save money, he said.

The NICE paper found many public health interventions were 'excellent' value for money.

Co-author Professor Kelly said: 'Given the current economic climate it’s more important than ever to make best use of limited resources.'

The paper found that 85% of public health interventions were cost-effective at a threshold of £20,000 per quality-adjusted life year.

This figure is far less than the maximum threshold usually used by NICE for assessing drug treatments of around £30,000.

Health professionals are invited, along with the public and other stakeholders, to apply for a position on a new committee to guide the development of the briefings.

The first briefings are expected in April 2012.

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