Incidents and outbreaks

Circumstances can arise when the health of the population may be at risk because groups of individuals are exposed, or at risk of being exposed, to the following:

  • infectious disease
  • high levels of a hazardous substance
  • adverse environmental conditions

These situations are public health incidents and along with NHS boards we must take action to protect public health.

One of our core functions is to facilitate an effective response to outbreaks and incidents, especially those which are likely to severely test the NHS and other public services.

The guidance Management of Public Health Incidents: Guidance on the Roles and Responsibilities of NHS led Incident Management Teams – interim 2020 update was developed by the Scottish Health Protection Network (SHPN) as generic guidance for ourselves and NHS boards in preparation for, and to manage public health incidents in collaboration with partners, especially the local authorities.

If an NHS board has a healthcare associated infection incident or outbreak they will report this as per Chapter 3 of the National Infection Prevention and Control Manual and further information on this can be found in the Healthcare Infection Incidents and outbreaks page.

Scottish Health Protection Information Resource

The Scottish Health Protection Information Resource (SHPIR) isn’t an information bank on health protection topics, it's more a resource which gives the most up-to date and relevant guidance that can be used in an outbreak or incident.

The content of SHPIR is from the resources that our on-call staff have been using, as well as within the NHS boards. It's considered to be core information on infectious disease and environmental hazards. These resources include:

  • official guidance
  • protocols
  • guidelines
  • Scottish Government Health Department memoranda
  • Department of Health memoranda
  • selected peer reviewed papers
  • other carefully chosen material relevant to the listed topics

At present, SHPIR isn't a publicly available resource and is only available within the NHS to health protection staff.

To request access, please email