The Prescribing Safety Assessment is an online assessment of competency in the safe and effective prescribing of medicines, taken by final-year medical students and by overseas graduates coming to the UK to work as Foundation Year 1 doctors. It is developed and run jointly by MSC Assessment and the British Pharmacological Society.
The assessment is based on competencies set out in the General Medical Council’s Outcomes for graduates (previously Tomorrow’s Doctors), with questions that are relevant to the prescribing tasks of a Foundation Year 1 doctor. This includes writing and reviewing prescriptions, calculating doses, and identifying adverse drug reactions. The assessment lasts two hours and comprises 60 questions. It is a pass/fail assessment and, since 2016, it is a requirement to have passed before starting Foundation Year 2. The performance of the assessment is analysed annually by an independent expert and reviewed by the PSA Assessment Board.
Experts from the medical schools author and quality-assure the questions while administrative staff from the medical schools form part of the UK-wide organisational effort which goes into its delivery. The assessment was made possible through financial contributions and staff time from MSC Assessment and the British Pharmacological Society, as well as by funding from Health Education England and NHS Education Scotland. More information can be found on the Prescribing Safety Assessment website.
The case for creating the assessment came from a 2009 study from the General Medical Council. The study found that 9% of hospital prescriptions contained errors, while subsequent research indicated that prescribing is the area which graduates find most challenging. Prescribing assessments had already been developed and were in use locally by medical schools and hospitals, but there was no nationally accepted measure of prescribing performance.
The Medical Schools Council and British Pharmacological Society together created an assessment to address this, piloting over 2012 and 2013. Following successful pilots, the Prescribing Safety Assessment was implemented in 2014 across all medical schools, with each free to choose whether they set the assessment as a necessary step to graduation or not. At this time, the Medical Schools Council’s contribution to the assessment was assumed by the newly formed MSC Assessment.
In late 2015, health officials from the four UK countries stipulated that from August 2016 all new Foundation Year 1 doctors would be required to pass the Prescribing Safety Assessment in order to progress to Foundation Year 2.