Piloting the United Kingdom ‘Prescribing Safety Assessment’ with pharmacist prescribers in Scotland

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Prescribing is a complex task requiring considerable knowledge and skills. The Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA) was developed by the British Pharmacological Society and the United Kingdom (UK) Medical Schools Council. Between February and June 2014, over 7000 final year medical students undertook the PSA, with an overall pass rate of 94%. Independent prescribing for suitably trained pharmacists was introduced in the UK in 2006. To date there has been little focus on any objective measures of prescribing safety.


To determine the PSA performance of a pilot group of pharmacist prescribers in Scotland relative to medical students and to test the feasibility and acceptability of running the PSA.


Methods: A group of 59 pharmacist prescribers took part in ten events. The PSA consisted of 30 questions to be completed over 60 min. All questions had been used in the 2014 assessments for final year medical students. The PSA was undertaken online under invigilated conditions, mirroring the medical student assessment. One month later, participants were invited to complete an online evaluation questionnaire.


The mean overall PSA scores (±SD) were 87.5% ± 8.7 (range 52–98) compared to a 88.5% for medical students. Based on an Angoff passmark of 76.0%, 53 pharmacists (89.8%) passed compared to an overall pass rate in PSA 2014 of 94%. Pharmacists performed equivalently to medical students in all assessment areas, with a slightly lower performance in the prescribing, drug monitoring and data interpretation questions offset by better performance in prescription review and adverse drug reactions. Feedback was positive in relation to appropriateness, relevance and level of difficulty of the PSA although several commented that they were practicing in very specific clinical areas.


These pilot events have benchmarked the PSA performance of pharmacist prescribers with final year medical students, and feedback confirmed feasibility and acceptability.

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