|Title:||Standardisation of terminology, abbreviations and symbols in the prescribing and administration of medicines|
|Document ID:||Operational Directive OD 0184/09|
|Date of issue:||Thursday, 23 April 2009|
|Description:||This Operational Directive promotes patient safety through clear and unambiguous prescribing of medicines. It establishes the principles for consistent prescribing terminology and provides a set of recommended terms and acceptable abbreviations. It also provides a list of error prone abbreviations, symbols and dose designations that have a history of causing errors that must be avoided.|
|Legal requirements:||Ministerial directive
|Applicable to:||Medical directors/medical/pharmacy/nursing/safety and quality/educational units and institutions|
|Period of effect:||from 12 January 2009 to 12 January 2014|
|Authorised by:||Dr Peter Flett, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WA HEALTH, 14-Apr-2009|
|Print version:||View print version|
Standardisation of terminology, abbreviations and symbols in the prescribing and administration of medicines
The use of inconsistent, ambiguous or non-standard abbreviations and terminology in the prescribing of medicines is a major cause of medication errors. Standardisation of terminology and abbreviations has been identified as an important strategy in reducing these errors. Australian standardised terminology, abbreviations and symbols have been developed. This was achieved through an extensive national and multidisciplinary process which included the Western Australian Medication Safety Group (
This Operational Directive promotes patient safety through clear and unambiguous prescribing of medicines by establishing:
Health Service Managers and Clinical Directors are requested to bring this Directive to the attention of the Drugs and Therapeutics Committee (or similar), and directly to all relevant clinical staff.
Health Services should develop policies for prescribing terminology that comply with the principles and standards outlined in the attached document. There may be specific circumstances where other terminology may be considered safe. However before these are included in local policies the standards and principles outlined in the attached document should be applied.A number of resources have been developed to assist implementation. These include a lanyard card (showing the list of acceptable abbreviations), and posters and A4 sheets (to be kept with the medication chart, which show the set of recommended terms and acceptable abbreviations).
Dr Peter Flett
This circular last updated: Thursday, 23 April 2009 at 8:10am