Beaumont Hospital

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National Poisons Information Centre Launches Service for General Public

Monday January 10, 2011

The National Poisons Information Centre based at Dublin's Beaumont Hospital is launching a new telephone service to advise the public in general, and parents in particular, on how to respond to accidents involving poisons.

Established 44 years ago, the NPIC provides a specialist information service to doctors and healthcare professionals 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. But in recent years there has been a growing demand from members of the public for advice, too. Today calls from members of the public account for about a quarter of the 10,000 it receives each year.

In response to this growing demand, from January 10th 2010 the NPIC is introducing a public service operating between 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday. The Public Poisons Information Helpline number is (01) 809 2166. Outside these hours callers will still be advised to contact their GP or local hospital, as they would at present.

NPIC Director Dr Edel Duggan says that public poison information helplines are to be found in virtually every EU country and the US. They have been shown to improve medical outcomes and to reduce the number of unnecessary visits to hospital emergency departments, especially by children.

"Our aim in launching this service in Ireland is to ensure that in the event of an accident or suspected accident involving a poisonous substance the best possible advice is available at the earliest opportunity," Dr Duggan says.

She points out that in cases involving low toxicity substances it is often possible to give callers reassurance and practical advice on managing the patient. However, the Centre's trained specialists will also quickly identify incidents in which urgent medical attention is recommended and advise on the immediate steps to be taken by the caller.

"Two things are vitally important - doing the right thing to stop the situation getting worse and speed of response," Dr Duggan says. "Members of the public should always remember that when it comes to poison minutes matter."

The NPIC also plays an important role in providing advice to the public on the prevention of poisoning. To further this work, with the support of Beaumont Foundation the NPIC has recently produced an updated leaflet of "Poison Prevention Guidelines" for parents.

This provides useful lists of "dos & don'ts" and ways of "poison proofing" the home as well as advice on what to do if it appears a child may have been poisoned. This leaflet is being made available to parents through the HSE's Health Promotion Unit, clinics, crèches and schools as well as on the NPIC's own website,

The new public call service is being provided from within the NPIC's existing resources. It is initially being run as a pilot to gauge potential demand for a full 24 hour service and what additional resources that might require. Using US data as a rough guide, the Centre anticipates that provision of a 24 hour public service could treble the volume of calls it receives each year.