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Pioneering new approach to medicine labelling

Bilingual label

London North West Healthcare NHS Trust is the first in the country to pioneer a novel approach to medicine labelling.

Using specialist software from ‘Written Medicine’, the pharmacy team has introduced bilingual labels which translate medical information and instructions into a patient’s preferred language.

The work began at Ealing Hospital in July 2016 and has now been rolled out to the pharmacy departments at Northwick Park and Central Middlesex hospitals. 

Senior Pharmacist Feroz Mohabuth said: "For most of us the ability to read and understand medical instructions is something we take for granted. However, for others whose preferred language may not be English, it can be an extremely difficult and daunting task, adding unnecessarily to the burden of being unwell.

"When a patient presents at the pharmacy department the interaction between the receptionist and the patient will identify whether they will benefit from the service. We make sure the product is labelled in English, as well as the language chosen by the patient."

There are many benefits to this work, including:

  • Improved compliance and safety by increasing patients’ understanding of written instructions
  • Helping to reduce the risk of administration errors 
  • Better patient experience as pharmacy staff are able to provide a more personalised service
  • Empowering patients to take control of their own health 

There are also some potentially wider benefits, such as reduced medicine wastage and reduced hospital admissions as patients are better informed and therefore more likely to take their medicines correctly.

The service is currently available in nine languages that reflect the local population, including Arabic, Bengali, French, Gujarati, Hindi, Polish, Punjabi, Somali and Tamil.

Feroz added: "Especially in this locality, patients don’t always have English as their first language and we can often find it difficult to communicate, counsel and empower patients. This simple but very clever innovation is already making a significant contribution to improving patient care and experience.

"Patients have told us that the bilingual labelling has given them back their independence in managing their health. They are really pleased that a service like this is available to them."

The next phase of the project aims to provide information in a patient’s preferred language for discharge prescriptions.

Click here to watch a short video about this work.