BNF & BNFC App FAQs

General

Who is the App aimed at?
The BNF & BNFC App is aimed at prescribers, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals, working for the NHS in the UK, who need sound up-to-date information about the use of medicines (see the Terms and Conditions for more information on who can download the App). The App contains all of the content from BNF and BNFC in one place, ensuring easy access to BNF content.

Can I use the App for commercial use?
All commercial use of the BNF, including the BNF & BNFC App, requires a licence. To find out more, please contact opsteam@rpharms.com.

How was the App developed?
Before making the changes to the BNF data structure, we explored the ways in which users liked to access BNF content. Designs for the App were then tested with users to further understand how the content could best be accessed.

How do I update the App (and when)?
Clinical content is updated every month in line with the other online updates to BNF publications. Each month an updated version of the App, containing all the BNF and BNFC content, will be available to download via the App Store and Google Play. The App will prompt you to download the new version when it becomes available. If you configure your mobile device’s settings to automatically update apps, new versions of the App will update automatically and the prompt will not appear.

What does the date under ‘updates’ actually mean?
The date of last update can be found under the ‘about’ section within the App. This date reflects the last time the App on your device was updated. It does not reflect the last time that the clinical content was updated.

The date of the last content update on your App will be displayed, for Android users, when the App is opened and, for iOS users, next to the search bar at the top of the App’s navigation screens.

What is evidence grading and how do I turn it on?
From January 2016, recommendations made in BNF publications have been evidence graded to reflect the strength of the recommendation. The addition of evidence grading is to support clinical decision-making based on the best available evidence. For more information, see How BNF Publications are constructed in BNF and BNFC.

This function can be turned on by going to the main menu and then settings. The option to turn evidence categories on (and off) can be found here. When this is turned on the evidence grades assigned to recommendations are displayed clearly within the content.

Currently only a small amount of the clinical recommendations have evidence grading applied, so you won’t see very much of this in the App at first. Examples of evidence graded content include the drug monograph ‘ipratropium bromide’ and the treatment summary ‘Irritable bowel syndrome’.

More evidence grading will appear with each monthly update, until eventually all recommendations within the content will be evidence graded.

What’s happened to the hierarchy?
The BNF chapter numbering structure (sometimes referred to as the hierarchy) has been changed in order to facilitate the development of digital products, to bring the BNF content in line with national and international standards (wherever possible), and to bring the information into one place in the print format.

The BNF retains therapeutic and drug class groups but these are now presented differently in the new formats. In the App, each drug monograph has the section ‘Other drugs in class’. This shows the classification of the drug, and all other drugs with that classification. For example, ‘other drugs in class’ for tiagabine will inform the user that tiagabine is an antiepileptic and will display the full list of antiepileptics in the BNF.

Drugs are listed alphabetically rather than grouped by therapeutic use in the App. Treatment summaries are presented by their body system, for example the treatment summary for Irritable bowel syndrome will be found under the body system ‘Gastro-intestinal system’.

An instance of the hierarchy will be available on the MedicinesComplete web service for those that need it for coding.

What’s happening to the BNF App produced by NICE?
The new App will eventually replace the NICE BNF App. To begin with, both Apps will be available in order to allow users time to download and familiarise themselves with the new BNF & BNFC App. Both Apps will continue to be updated monthly with BNF content, so you can be confident they contain the latest information.

It is expected that the NICE BNF App will be retired in the next few months, and updates to this version of the App will cease. Although the NICE BNF App will include a banner to remind you of this nearer the time, we would encourage you to make the transition as early as possible.

Use and navigation

How do I find the content I want in the App?
The BNF Publications content is split into sections within the App, covering the drug monograph content, treatment summaries, medical devices, wound care and borderline substances. You can browse through each of these sections via an A to Z list, or by body system in treatment summaries.

Alternatively, you can use the search function. Searching is enabled in each of the content sections and was designed this way to return the most specific results. However, your search can be expanded by choosing to search the rest of the App at the bottom of the search results. This will retrieve relevant content from all sections.

To search drug monograph content, type in the drug name. The App will pick up the letters you are searching anywhere in a monograph title. The results are then presented alphabetically.

The search function within treatment summaries will retrieve all treatment summaries containing the word searched for. This is a result of user testing, as users used highly variable strategies for finding content in this section.

I’m in a drug monograph, and I think the search function has disappeared – what should I do?
Following user testing, the search has not been included deep into the content as it was not a feature that was utilised. However, if you do find you need to search from this point in the content, you can return to the search by either clicking the back button on your Apple device, or swipe the screen left to right to bring up the menu on your Android device.

How do I change between BNF and BNFC content?
To switch between BNF and BNFC content, select from the dropdown at the top of the main menu panel. The option you choose is remembered by the App until you change it.

How do I bookmark content?
The new App is designed to make content very easy to discover, and our user testing suggested a bookmarking function was not needed. It has therefore not been built into the new App.

Access

Who can download and access the App?
The BNF & BNFC App can be downloaded by any non-commercial user in the UK.

How do I find and download the App?
The App can be downloaded from the App Store for iOS devices, and Google Play for Android devices.

Why isn’t there a Windows App?
The App was developed in the first instance to support the most widely used smartphone devices. At the start of 2016 almost 94% of smartphone users in the UK owned either an Android or iOS device.

Do I still need my Athens authentication to access the App?
No, the new App can be accessed without an Athens password.

I’m from outside the UK. When will I be able to download the App?
The App is not currently available outside the UK.

Technical details

Which devices are supported?
The App is available on iOS devices and runs efficiently with an operating system of iOS 8 and above across Apple tablets and mobile devices.

The App is also available on Android devices running Android 5.0 and above. It is also designed to support devices running Android 4.0 but is known to run more slowly on this operating system.

For the best experience we recommend you use the latest version of the operating system available for your mobile.

How do I report technical issues and feedback?
You can communicate with us using the Get in Touch function of the app.

For technical queries please include details of the device and operating system used.  To help us respond to you most effectively, please relate your enquiry to the specific scenario encountered.

Feedback and queries related to clinical content.  To help us respond to you most effectively, please relate your enquiry to the specific scenario encountered.

Background

What are the BNF Publications?
The BNF Publications (often referred to collectively as the BNF) are three key titles – the British National Formulary (BNF), the British National Formulary for Children (BNFC) and the Nurse Prescribers’ Formulary (NPF). The BNF is a joint publication of the British Medical Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. The BNFC is a joint publication of the British Medical Association, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in association with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and the Neonatal and Paediatric Pharmacists’ Group.

What is the purpose of the BNF?
The BNF provides prescribers, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals with independent up- to-date information about the use of medicines and includes key information on the selection, prescribing, dispensing and administration of medicines. BNFC provides the same information with a paediatric focus.

The BNF is widely used in UK healthcare settings in clinical decision-making to support the safe selection of effective medicines, and provides advice to practitioners to help them support patients in making the most effective use of their medicines.

Who uses the BNF?
The BNF is predominantly used by doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other healthcare professionals, particularly those in prescribing roles.

How is the BNF developed?
Information on drugs is drawn from the manufacturers’ product literature, medical and pharmaceutical literature, UK health departments, regulatory authorities, and professional bodies. Advice is constructed from clinical literature and reflects, as far as possible, an evaluation of the evidence from diverse sources. The BNF also takes account of authoritative national guidelines and emerging safety concerns. In addition, the editorial team receives advice on all therapeutic areas from expert clinicians; this ensures that the BNF’s recommendations are relevant to practice.

Why is the content structured differently to that in the BNF App produced by NICE?
The BNF content was restructured in 2015 to give it a more digital-ready focus, in line with NHS digital strategy. The BNF & BNFC App has been designed to use the current BNF and BNFC content structure, whereas the app produced by NICE was developed for the previous (legacy) content structure.