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BNF for children: listening and learning
  1. Dinesh K Mehta
  1. For correspondence:
    MrD K Mehta
    BNF Publications, 1 Lambeth High Street, London SE1 7JN, UK; dmehta{at}

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Publication of the first edition of the BNF for children (BNFC) was followed by market research to discover how well it met health professionals’ need for practical information on medicines used for children. The research took the form of a questionnaire survey (with over 1200 responses analysed) and focus group discussions involving doctors, pharmacists and nurses. Users considered the layout and ordering of content crucial because they affect the speed and ease of accessing information. Guidance on dosage was regarded as the most important information element and its presentation was found wanting in the first edition. Clear advice was also required on choosing a medicine and on the administration of medicines to children. The market research as well as unprompted feedback led to numerous changes to the layout and content of the subsequent edition of the BNFC. It is difficult for a single national paediatric formulary to comprehensively satisfy the information needs of specialists in tertiary-care settings. Continuous assessment of user satisfaction is critical to the success of a practical manual on medicines information.

The BNFC was launched in 2005 as a national resource of up-to-date information on medicines used for treating children. The second edition was published the following summer and the third edition issued this July.

The BNFC’s strong pedigree provided a tried-and-tested framework for presenting the multifaceted and interconnected information on the clinical use of medicines. However, it was clear from the outset that the BNFC needed to evolve its presentation beyond that of the familiar British National Formulary as the proper use of paediatric medicines calls for an even more complex knit of information.1


Medicines for children2 provided an excellent insight into which information elements were important in secondary care. In designing the initial layout, the BNFC editors bore in mind that …

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  • Competing interests: The author is executive editor of BNF Publications.