The NHS dictionary of medicines and devices has been developed and delivered through a partnership between NHS Connecting for Health and the NHS Business Services Authority. It has been developed for use throughout the NHS as a means of uniquely identifying the specific medicines or devices used in the diagnosis or treatment of patients and will become the NHS standard for medicines and device identification. This should enable there to be a safe and more reliable exchange of information on medicines and devices and allow decisions based on a commonality of language.

The dictionary should 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. Currently more than one in six patients who are put on medication after seeing their GP are given a prescription containing an error, some of which will have been based on misinterpretation of drug identification, according to the General Medical Council.

Of course, how effective the dictionary will be in improving outcomes for patients in the future, will be measured against a reduction in prescription errors or misunderstandings relating to medical terminology. This will be hard to judge but must be a step in the right direction.