Prescribing Safety Assessment 2016: Delivery of a national prescribing assessment to 7,343 UK final-year medical students

Simon R J Maxwell, Jamie J Coleman, Lynne Bollington, Celia Taylor, David J Webb

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AIM(S): Newly graduated doctors write a large proportion of prescriptions in UK hospitals but recent studies have shown that they frequently make prescribing errors. The Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA) has been developed as an assessment of competence in relation to prescribing and supervising the use of medicines. This report describes the delivery of the PSA to all UK final-year medical students in 2016 (PSA2016).

METHODS: The PSA is a 2-hour online assessment comprising eight sections which cover various aspects of prescribing defined within the outcomes of undergraduate education identified by the UK General Medical Council. Students sat one of four PSA 'papers' which had been standard-set using a modified Angoff process.

RESULTS: A total of 7,343 final-year medical students in all 31 UK medical schools sat the PSA. The overall pass rate was 95% with the pass rates for the individual papers ranging from 93 to 97%. The PSA was re-sat by 261 students who had failed and 80% of those candidates passed. The internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha) of the four papers ranged from 0.74 to 0.77 (standard error of measurement 4.13 to 4.24%). There was a statistically significant variation in performance between medical school cohorts (F = 32.6, p < 0.001) and a strongly positive correlation in performance for individual schools between PSA2015 and PSA2016 (r = 0.79, 95% CI 0.61 to 0.90; p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: PSA2016 demonstrated the feasibility of delivering a standardised national prescribing assessment online. The vast majority of UK final-year medical students were able to meet a pre-specified standard of prescribing competence.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Early online date27 Apr 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Apr 2017


  • Journal Article
  • prescribing
  • medicine
  • doctor
  • pharmacist
  • undergraduate
  • assessment
  • medication safety
  • error


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