This guideline covers systems and processes for using and managing controlled drugs safely in all NHS settings except care homes. It aims to improve working practices to comply with legislation and have robust governance arrangements. It also aims to reduce the safety risks associated with controlled drugs.


This guideline includes recommendations:

Who is it for?

  • Health professionals providing care for people being treated with controlled drugs, for example, GPs, pharmacists and nurses.
  • Social care practitioners, for example, home care workers, personal assistants and social workers.
  • Commissioners of services using controlled drugs, for example, local authorities and clinical commissioning groups.
  • Providers of services where controlled drugs are used, for example, substance misuse services, ambulance services, home care providers, community pharmacies, community health providers, GPs and other independent prescribers, dispensing doctors, voluntary agencies and charities.
  • People being treated with controlled drugs, their families or carers, and the public.

Guideline development process

How we develop NICE guidelines

Your responsibility

The recommendations in this guideline represent the view of NICE, arrived at after careful consideration of the evidence available. When exercising their judgement, professionals are expected to take this guideline fully into account, alongside the individual needs, preferences and values of their patients or service users. The application of the recommendations in this guideline is not mandatory and the guideline does not override the responsibility of healthcare professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual patient, in consultation with the patient and/or their carer or guardian.

Local commissioners and/or providers have a responsibility to enable the guideline to be applied when individual health professionals and their patients or service users wish to use it. They should do so in the context of local and national priorities for funding and developing services, and in light of their duties to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, to advance equality of opportunity and to reduce health inequalities. Nothing in this guideline should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with compliance with those duties.

Commissioners and providers have a responsibility to promote an environmentally sustainable health and care system and should assess and reduce the environmental impact of implementing NICE recommendations wherever possible.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)