By Matt Noble

I rarely use books of any sort these days.

Apart from the British National Formulary (BNF) that is.

Yes, you can get the text on-line, but it’s not that easy to use, particularly on a mobile device. Or you can spend £30 per edition to get it as an app.

Until now — Because NICE have released the BNF in app form, and it is free to anyone in the NHS with eligibility for a free Athens account (that’s basically all clinical staff).

The app opens with a registration screen asking for your Athens account details. Helpfully, you can also register for an account from this screen if you haven’t had one before, or if you’ve forgotten your details like me.

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Once you are signed in, the app downloads the BNF data. This is about 40Mb or so in size, and somewhat annoyingly, the app insists upon you using a WiFi connection for this purpose. So forget about doing this on the train, or anywhere without a solid WiFi connection.

I’m really not sure why this is. Surely it is up to me if I want to use my 3G data allowance or not? Anyway, that annoyance aside, you’re into the app proper–and it is great.

The chapters are listed by systems, as in the paper BNF, and you can drill down to the group or drug you are looking for.

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Each section begins with a useful summary of treatment options. This seems a bit more succinct than the paper version, and draws on NICE guidline summaries.

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Moreover, you can drill down into the drug or group you are interested in. The app gives the usual indications, side effects, dosage information, and more that we are used to from the paper BNF.

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Particularly well done is the interactions page for each drug, which is very clear to read and gives some indication of the severity of the interaction by color-coding.

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  • Free


  • It’s free
  • The whole BNF at your fingertips
  • Great interactions information
  • Once downloaded, you can use the information off line
  • The author, NICE, promises updates with each new version of the BNF


  • Having to set it up over WiFi initially
  • The user interface needs some polish. In some screens, the android back button works, in others it does nothing
  • Search is only available from the front screen of the app, and not via the android search button.


  • I’m willing to forgive the UI foibles for what is a fantastic app, one that I’m going to use every day.
  • Oh, and its free, did I mention that?

Google Play Link