As a medical student or foundation doctor, you’re well aware of the critical role prescribing medications plays in your future profession and you’ll want to ensure that you have the competence to prescribe safely and effectively. That’s where the Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA) steps in – it evaluates your ability to make informed and safe prescription decisions, a crucial skill as you progress through your training.

In 2022 an Independent Review into the PSA and its future was commissioned. This review investigated the PSA’s structure, content and overall impact.

Exploring the Dacre Review: Why It Matters to You

In 2022, the British Pharmacological Society and the Medical Schools Council initiated a comprehensive review of the PSA. The aim? To assess the exam’s effectiveness and chart its future course. This review involved key figures from across the NHS and the UK’s medical education landscape, under the leadership of Professor Dame Jane Dacre.

Key Takeaways from the Dacre Review

Let’s delve into the findings of the Dacre Review, with a focus on the medical student angle:

Support for the Prescribing Safety Assessment

Widespread support for the PSA means it’s unlikely to be going anywhere. It’s clear from the findings of the review that prescribing educators and stakeholders understand that prescribing has changed and will continue to change with the introduction of new medications. This coupled with advancements in technology, prescribing in an ageing population and changes in attitude, mean junior doctors need to overcome increasing complex challenges. This is where the exam not only presents an opportunity for candidates to assess their prescribing skills but also build their knowledge and confidence in prescribing before advancing in their careers.

Impact of the Prescribing Safety Assessment

The review highlighted a hugely positive impact on patient safety within the healthcare sector. Since the PSA was mandated in 2017, there has been a consistent reduction in the percentage of medication-related patient safety incidents year after year. This notable trend underlines the effectiveness of the PSA in equipping healthcare professionals with the necessary knowledge and skills to make safer medication decisions.

While the review does not explicitly delve into the direct impact on students sitting the PSA, many have voiced their support for it. Feedback has attested that the exam and the preparation for it, has significantly bolstered confidence among students, demonstrating the invaluable role this assessment plays in enhancing the competence and preparedness of future healthcare practitioners.

The Future of the Prescribing Safety Assessment

The recommendations from the oversight group focus on the need for sustained and equitable funding, better regulation and a more robust governance structure to enhance transparency and accountability.

These recommendations paint a promising picture of the PSA’s future as a fair, quality-focused, and sustainable assessment tool. It’s poised to become an even more effective and reliable part of the medical education curriculum, equipping medical students with the skills to tackle the challenges of modern medicine with confidence.

This independent review reinforces the Prescribing Safety Assessment’s significance in your journey as a medical student. It provides invaluable support, enhances your prescribing skills, and contributes to the safety of future patients. With these recommendations, the PSA is on track to evolve into a vital tool that better prepares you for your role as a healthcare professional in today’s ever-changing medical landscape.

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