Transforming access to medicines information

NICE's apps are free for health and social care professionals who work for or are contracted by the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales

Ensuring NHS staff have access to the latest high quality information to deliver the best possible patient care has always been very important to NICE. We provide access to the British National Formulary (BNF) and British National Formulary for Children (BNFC) in both digital and print formats for eligible health and social care professionals.

BNF and BNFC online

Content from the British National Formulary (BNF) and British National Formulary for Children (BNFC) can be accessed via NICE Evidence Search. The BNF and BNFC are available alongside other useful sources of medicines information provided by NICE, such as medicines evidence summaries and alert services. The content is openly accessible to anyone in the UK.

NICE BNF and NICE BNFC apps

NICE’s BNF and BNFC apps are free for health and social care professionals who work for or are contracted by the NHS in England, Scotland and Wales, and students who are studying on NHS-commissioned courses such as medicine or nursing. To access content users need to simply enter their NHS Athens user name and password.

Eligible health and care professionals in England who do not yet have an NHS Athens password can register for free online or directly from their Smartphone by following the instruction displayed in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Increasingly clinicians are choosing to access the BNF in digital formats. NICE's BNF and BNFC apps and BNF and BNFC content on NICE Evidence Search are updated monthly, unlike the print version, making them the easiest way to keep up-to-date - and they can be used without an internet connection.

Key features of the BNF apps

  • Information and advice on the drug management of common conditions.
  • Details of medicines prescribed within the UK with reference to their uses, cautions, contra-indications, side-effects, doses and relative costs.
  • Advice on prescribing, monitoring, dispensing and administering medicines.
  • Search for drugs by name using the auto-complete search.
  • Receive notifications when new editions or updates are available.
  • Bookmark content for easy access.

Since the BNF apps were launched in 2012 there have been almost a quarter of a million NICE BNF downloads and over 75,000 NICE BNFC downloads. Over 2013/14 there were just under 100,000 downloads of the NICE BNF app and over 35,000 downloads of the NICE BNFC app.

Changes to print distribution

NICE provides print copies of the BNF and BNFC to prescribers working in the NHS and other organisations that provide NHS-commissioned care in England. We also provide the Nurse Prescribers Formulary (NPF) to community practitioner nurse prescribers in England.

They are published jointly by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the British Medical Association, with NICE responsible for providing NHS access to these publications. Print editions of the BNF and BNFC are distributed by NICE annually. Eligible NHS prescribers receive copies of BNF every September and copies of BNFC every July free of charge.

From February to March 2014 we ran an 8 week public consultation on a vision for an enhanced BNF from NICE and changes to the BNF distribution process. We gathered 676 responses from a range of organisations and individuals, including health and social care practitioners and members of the public.

NICE also ran 3 interactive workshops to gather more in-depth feedback on the enhanced BNF vision. There were 55 attendees representing health and social care and patients across the workshops.

The results of the consultation and workshops will inform developments for the future service.