Department of Health and Social Care
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Common medicines dictionary approved for NHS

A common medicines dictionary, approved today, will reduce the chance of medical errors by ensuring all staff who work in the NHS and healthcare use the same common language when referring to medicines.

The Information Standards Board for Health and Social Care has approved the NHS dictionary of medicines and devices (dm+d) as a fundamental standard which must be used by all staff.

All doctors, nurses and pharmacists should move towards using the common medicines dictionary so that information exchanged electronically is accurate and safe. Using a single drug terminology will enable information about patients’ medicines to transfer more effectively between different healthcare settings, reducing the risk of medication mistakes caused by human error.

The NHS dictionary of medicines and devices is already widely used in the UK for the exchange of clinical information, including the Electronic Prescription Service and for patients’ Summary Care Records.

Dr Charles Gutteridge, National Clinical Director for Informatics at the Department of Health and Medical Director, Barts and the London NHS Trust said:

“The adoption of dm+d is an important milestone. It will mean clearer and consistent communication throughout the NHS ensuring health professionals in all care settings can deliver a more integrated and safer healthcare system.

“I encourage all clinicians to accelerate their use of this common medical dictionary for the benefit of the patients we care for.”

Heidi Wright, from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said:

“The Royal Pharmaceutical Society supports the need for a single terminology to facilitate interoperability and to enable such initiatives as the Electronic prescription Service (EPS). We believe that the opportunities created for using dm+d are substantial in terms of interoperability, opportunities for comparison and reducing variation, enhancing patient safety i.e. reducing risks associated with system interfaces and providing links to clinical systems such as the British National Formulary (BNF).”

Notes to editors

1. For media enquiries only please contact the Department of Health on 0207 210 5416.

2. The Information Standards Board (ISB) approves information standards for the NHS and adult social care in England. The board consists of all the major organisations involved in health and social care, including the NHS Information Centre, Nursing & Midwifery Council and Intellect. You can find out more about the ISB on their website.  

3. The dm+d is a dictionary containing unique identifiers and associated textual descriptions for medicines and medical devices.  dm+d has been developed and delivered through a partnership between the Department of Health Informatics Directorate  and the NHS Business Services Authority.

4. The Information Strategy (‘The Power of Information’) states 3.58 “Reducing the number of inconsistent or incompatible terminologies from 2015 (via the ‘route-map’) will allow better integration between systems and across health and social care, and better information to support care and improvement of care. In due course, for patient care purposes, all relevant systems should use the same terminology to exchange coded information; SNOMED CT, adapted to fit all necessary uses, is the appropriate terminology to base this on. Similarly, to allow drugs to be consistently referenced, systems will consistently use the electronic drugs dictionary (dm+d)”.

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