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Electronicjuice
Vol 270 No 7254 p860
21 June 2003

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Letters to the Editor

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BNF

A change in publication dates could save money

From Mr D. C. Smith, MRPharmS

The delay in publishing the latest British National Formulary gives an opportunity for publication dates to be altered to coincide with the time when many junior hospital doctors start or change jobs, ie, 1 August and 1 February. The Department of Health would like all doctors to receive an up-to-date BNF and accordingly allocate "free" copies to hospitals, depending mainly on their medical staff numbers. The current March and September publication dates (in practice, April and October before they arrive) mean there is a four- to eight-week gap during which there are no copies to distribute to new doctors or extra copies will have been obtained for a short period of use. If there were new publication dates of January and July (assuming availability in February and August), I believe it would be better for hospitals and their doctors and save the National Health Service and the DoH some money.

David Smith
Pharmacy Information Services Manager
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals

 

DINESH MEHTA, executive editor, British National Formulary, replies:

Your correspondent makes an important point and one that the Joint Formulary Committee has considered several times previously. Our understanding is that the United Kingdom health departments order sufficient BNFs to provide every NHS doctor with a copy. There is also provision for each final-year medical student to receive a copy.

As your correspondent states, junior doctors on rotation take up their new posts in February and August. However, since they will simply be moving between clinical placements or from final year at medical school, they should already have a BNF.

To distribute the BNF in time for the February and August changeover, it would need to be published in January and July. This is a significant shift for a six-monthly publication. In order to manage such a shift either we would need to bring forward the publication date by a week or two each edition for several editions or we would have to miss out an edition altogether. For different reasons, neither of these options is attractive. Furthermore, in order to publish in January, the BNF would need to be printed in early December (since factories start shutting down in the latter half of December) and the February BNF would not therefore be as up to date as one would like.

As digital versions of the BNF (including PDA versions) become more popular, there will be less reliance on availability of the book. We envisage the digital BNF being used for rapid reference during a clinical encounter and the book being used for more detailed study.

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