The NHS Business Services Authority (BSA) prescribing and dispensing information systems use the therapeutic classifications defined in the British National Formulary (BNF) as extended by the BSA. The same drug may appear in different areas of the BNF as it can be prescribed to treat more than one condition. For example, aspirin is licensed for use as an antiplatelet and as an analgesic.
NHS Prescription Services have created pseudo BNF chapters for items not included in BNF chapters 1 to 15. The majority of such items are dressings and appliances, which have been classified into 4 pseudo BNF chapters (20 to 23). Chapters 18 and 19 include preparations used in diagnosis, and 'other preparations'. There is no chapter 16 or 17. NHS Prescription Services have produced a booklet on BNF classifications and the pseudo classifications used.
The BNF is updated in March and September each year. NHS Prescription Services update their BNF classifications annually. While the therapeutic classification of drugs occasionally changes, all practice level publications reflect the classification in use at the time of publication.
The primary purpose of the BNF is to provide information for clinicians. The format of the BNF was changed with Edition 70 (September 2015 to March 2016) making it more user friendly. However, the BSA, who process dispensed prescription forms, collect dispensed prescribing data and produce the ePACT data, continue to use the old BNF classification system to code medicines, which has become widely used in the UK as a classification to allow comparisons between drug groups. For example, it is used to report cost and trend in medicines use and supports several NHS Digital official publications. The data is used in many NHS IT systems.