Prescribing safety assessment


21 / 4 / 2016 11am

The prescribing safety assessment (PSA), developed by the British Pharmacological Society and MSC Assessment, aims to provide a reliable and valid assessment of medical trainees to ensure their competency in the safe and effective use of medicines.

The content of each question is relevant to the prescribing tasks expected of a foundation year 1 doctor, so refer to ailments and drugs that students are likely to be dealing with at that stage of their training. Students taking the test can have access to the online British National Formulary during the assessment. 

The assessment tests eight distinct prescribing domains across a range of clinical contexts:

  • prescribing
  • prescription review
  • planning management
  • providing information about medicines
  • calculation skills
  • adverse drug reactions
  • drug monitoring
  • data interpretation. 

From August 2016, passing the PSA is necessary for successful completion of foundation year 1. Those who do not pass the assessment in the final year of their medical degree are given the opportunity to resit the assessment during foundation year 1, with remedial support. 

Employers may already have systems in place to assess and support the competence of new f1 doctors as they begin their first medical job. The PSA assesses the competencies required of newly-qualified doctors in the General Medical Council’s Outcomes for graduates (Tomorrow’s Doctors), therefore the outcome of the PSA will help to support employers’ systems, providing a validated assessment of skills in this important area of patient safety. 

Employers may wish to put plans in place to maintain patient safety around the prescribing practice of newly qualified doctors, tailoring more intensive support to those that require it most, as indicated by PSA results. Some examples of this include: 

  • appointment of a pharmacist or clinical pharmacologist as prescribing mentor, to oversee local assessment and tailor support packages 
  • restricted formulary for independent prescribing until competence is demonstrated
  • use of electronic prescribing systems
  • increased clinical supervision of prescribing practice both through more senior doctors and other members of the multi-disciplinary team
  • regular prescribing reviews at ward level by pharmacy team to identify issues and provide remedial support.

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