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ALERT: Colour coded wristbands

17 Dec 2021
There is no uniform approach in New Zealand to the colours used to indicate different risks, e.g. red bands are used to indicate different risks in three different DHBs; a high risk of falls, drug allergy and gas inserted into the eye during retinal surgery.
Three different colours are used to indicate drug allergy in New Zealand; blue, red and green.
Reviewing the international evidence1,2 and the current practice in New Zealand, SQM group recommend that colour coded wristbands should not be used. DHBs and other organisations who continue to use colour coded wristbands should ensure that their policies, procedures and practice include removing any colour coded wristbands when patients are transferred between hospitals or other care settings e.g. rest homes, private hospitals etc. This will reduce the risk of incidents caused by the receiving organisation using a different colour coding system. Any colour coding system should also be consistent across a whole organisation.
1. National Patient Safety Agency. Design and specification of patient wristbands:
Evidence from existing literature, NPSA-facilitated workshops, and a NHS Trusts
survey. Available at:
2. ISMP Alert: Confusion over meaning of color coded wristbands March 9 2006

Published: 17 Dec 2021 Modified: 17 Dec 2021