THE NSW government is set to expedite a decision on the future of the controversial medically supervised injecting centre at Kings Cross before next year’s election, with an independent evaluation due to be handed to the Deputy Premier and Health Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, next month.The licence for the centre, which has operated on a trial basis since its establishment nine years ago following the NSW Drug Summit under former premier Bob Carr, is not due for renewal until October 31, 2011 – seven months after the state election in March.However, the NSW health department has spent $240,000 ordering an independent report from consultant KPMG on whether the centre is achieving its objectives.The report, according to the contract summary, is to ”consider the efficiency and effectiveness of the MSIC since the trial was extended in June 2007 … against the government’s stated objectives for the trial”.A statutory review of the centre by NSW Health, which legislation dictates must be completed by May 2011, is under way.The government has supported the ongoing trial and most recently renewed its licence in 2007 under the former health minister Reba Meagher.To the end of February 2010, more than 3500 drug overdoses had been successfully managed at the centre without a fatality, according to its medical director, Dr Marianne Jauncey.The Coalition has said if it is elected there would be a conscience vote on the issue.Unlike two previous reviews, the job of evaluating the centre was put out to tender. The public health experts who conducted the previous reviews declined to participate.Professor John Kaldor, from the University of NSW’s National Centre in HIV Epidemiology & Clinical Research, was involved in the previous reviews. He said yesterday the group felt it was no longer necessary to question the centre’s right to exist.”It seemed to us that to continue looking at it as a trial was not ideal from a public health point of view, to keep looking for an answer to the question of ‘Is this working?”’ he said. ”The case seemed to have been made in general terms.”The Reverend Harry Herbert, executive director of Uniting Care, the licensed operator of the centre, called for an end to the trial status.The licensing should be in ”the hands of the director-general of the department of health and the NSW police commissioner,” he told the Herald. ”It’s not as if the centre will be unaccountable … but we wouldn’t require a change to the Act every time the licence period is extended”.The centre’s founding medical director, Ingrid van Beek, was on Monday made a Member of the Order of Australia partly in recognition of her work in establishing the centre.A spokesman for Ms Tebbutt said the statutory review had ”recently commenced”. He declined to comment on whether Ms Tebbutt would make a decision about the centre’s future before the election.He said the NSW Health report must be tabled according to legislation but Ms Tebbutt was yet to decide whether to make the KPMG report public.TIMES OF TRIAL1999 NSW Drug Summit recommends the government ”should not veto” proposals for a trial of injecting centres to address street drug use2001 Medically supervised injecting centre opens in Kings Cross2007 Licence renewed for a further four years, but trial status maintained2009 State government commissions KPMG