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Is it time to end the use of imperial measurements?

28 January 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 2

When a baby is born in the UK, one of the first questions asked is about their weight, to which people often reply using pounds and ounces. So, why is this potentially problematic?

When the UK joined the EU, formerly the European Economic Community, in 1973, the agreement included a commitment that it would undertake full metric conversion for measurements and weights. This became enshrined in law in 1985 under the Weights and Measures Act 1985 and supported by a further order in 1994 (HM Government, 1994). This combination of legislation and organisation membership has not been enough for the UK to fully convert to metric units and there are still examples of imperial units being used even though it is 48 years since the UK joined the EU.

For example, when driving in the UK, distance is measured in miles and speed in miles per hour, which are both imperial measurements, rather than kilometres, although height restrictions are displayed in both systems. Healthcare documents request metric unit measurements, which allows for consistency and transparency, along with ease for calculating medication dosage. The move to electronic documentation has simplified this process. However, when using paper-based documentation staff may not always adhere to this, by, for example, writing a person's height in feet and inches.

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