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Anaesthesia. 2002 Aug;57(8):793-8.

Standardized colour coding for syringe drug labels: a national survey.

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Department of Anaesthesia, Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, Devon, UK.


A standardised colour code for user-applied syringe labels for anaesthetic drugs exists in the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. In the UK, there is none. Consequently, an assortment of colour codes for syringe labels is available in the UK. We conducted a postal survey of the 285 College Tutors of the Royal College of Anaesthetists to establish their local syringe drug labelling system and their views on a national, standardised colour code. We found that that 96% of departments currently use coloured syringe drug labels. Of these, 98% use the 'Medilabel' scheme. The College Tutors felt that a standardised colour code for labels is required (94%), that the Association of Anaesthetists or the Royal College of Anaesthetists should be involved in the choice of scheme (76%) and that the scheme chosen should be international (65%). There was a majority feeling that the opinions expressed were representative of other members of the College Tutors' departments. We conclude that a national standard for drug labels is required and that a choice will have to be made between the 'international' scheme and the currently dominant Medilabel scheme.

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