medical schools council


National prescribing assessment needed to enhance patient safety


2015 Prescribing Safety Assessment rolls out in all UK medical schools this month 

13 February 2015, London UK: The British Pharmacological Society and MSC Assessment welcome today’s leading article in The Lancet, which concludes that: “A national prescribing assessment that all students have to pass will serve to raise and unify prescribing standards, promote improved training experiences, and enhance patient safety… [This] will serve to ensure that all new prescribers, whether trained in the UK or overseas, meet a similar basic prescribing standard before they begin working in the NHS.” 

The article’s publication coincides with UK medical students’ first opportunity to sit the 2015 Prescribing Safety Assessment, which will be scheduled by a record number of medical schools from February onwards. All non-private UK medical schools will be participating in 2015, and the number of schools requiring their medical students to pass in order to graduate has tripled since last year (3 in 2014 versus 9 in 2015). 

The article’s authors, Professors Simon Maxwell, Iain Cameron and David Webb, sit on the Executive Board of the Prescribing Safety Assessment, which has been led jointly by the British Pharmacological Society and MSC Assessment since 2010. They highlight in The Lancet that the General Medical Council is set to investigate the merit of a UK National Licensing Examination that will ensure minimum standards in prescribing. 

The Prescribing Safety Assessment is funded by Health Education England and NHS Education for Scotland, and is intended to further enhance patient safety in the UK’s increasingly complex health environment by enabling students to demonstrate that they have achieved basic competency in the safe and effective use of medicines. It was originally introduced in response to a 2009 General Medical Council study which found that approximately 9% of NHS prescriptions contained errors, and since then further reports from the General Medical Council in 2014 found that newly graduated doctors see prescribing as particularly challenging.[1],[2] 

As reported in February’s Student BMJ, a record number of UK medical students participated in the 2014 Prescribing Safety Assessment: more than 7,100 final year students sat the assessment. From 2015, new doctors who did not pass the Prescribing Safety Assessment will be offered the opportunity to sit (or re-sit) by a number of foundation schools (where graduates go for their first employment). 


Notes to editors: 

  1. For more information on the Prescribing Safety Assessment, please visit  
  2. The British Pharmacological Society (BPS) works to promote and advance pharmacology, including clinical pharmacology. Clinical pharmacology is the medical speciality dedicated to promoting safe and effective use of medicines for patient benefit. Clinical pharmacologists are well placed to provide education on practical prescribing and assess the competencies of future prescribers. They teach students in UK medical schools both the basic principles of clinical pharmacology and practical therapeutics. They also teach a range of healthcare professionals who might prescribe, including hospital doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, and general practitioners. For further information please visit
  3. MSC Assessment is a registered charity and a subsidiary of the Medical Schools Council. It works to develop and promote high quality assessments relating to medical education. For further information please visit:

BPS Press Office: 
T. 020 7239 0184 / 0180 
M. 07557 400327 / 07786 552498 
E. /  

MSC Assessment Press Office: 
T. 020 7419 5427 

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