Behind The Scenes: How We Write Our Assessments

Assessments play a crucial role in evaluating a student’s knowledge and skills, especially in the medical field. At BPS Assessment, we understand the importance of creating high-quality assessments, which accurately assess student’s ability to prescribe medication safety and effectively. In this blog, we’ll take you behind the scenes, giving you a glimpse of how our team of experts crafts our assessments so that you have the best prescribing resources available for your students. 


Utilising Drug Bank Resources


The first step in crafting our assessments is to tap into the valuable resources available on the BPS Assessment platform, the Drug Bank. This comprehensive database provides our assessment writers with a wealth of information on medications, drug interactions, dosages, and more. Using the Drug Bank, our UK prescribing experts can create questions that accurately reflect the real-world scenarios you may encounter in your clinical practice.

Adhering to the PSA Blueprint


Each assessment question is created to adhere to the UK Prescribing Safety Assessment blueprint. This blueprint outlines the specific competencies and knowledge areas that are expected of foundation doctors and assesses 8 key areas. 


Our team ensures that every question we create closely adheres to these guidelines, covering a wide range of topics related to safe and effective prescribing; from prescription writing to drug monitoring and calculations. Each area is represented by an individual question item style in our assessments, highlighted in the graphic below: 


This alignment guarantees that your trainees are being assessed on the skills and knowledge that matter most in their future healthcare practice.


Peer Review for Quality Assurance


Quality is of paramount importance in assessment creation, which is why every question undergoes a rigorous peer review process. After our experts draft a question, it is carefully reviewed by a panel of experienced peers. This panel includes seasoned healthcare professionals and educators who possess a deep understanding of the PSA and its objectives. They assess each question for accuracy, relevance, and adherence to the PSA blueprint.


Author Revision and Finalisation


Based on the feedback from the peer review panel, the original author of the question revises it as necessary. This may involve refining the wording, adjusting the mark scheme, and enhancing the explanation of answers to ensure clarity. The goal is to create questions that are fair, challenging, and reflective of real-world prescribing scenarios.


By the time a question is finalised, it has undergone multiple iterations and revisions, guaranteeing that it meets the highest standards of quality and aligns perfectly with the PSA’s objectives.                           


Behind every successful assessment at BPS Assessment is a well-defined process that combines the expertise of UK prescribing experts, adherence to the PSA blueprint, and rigorous peer review. We take pride in our commitment to providing you with assessments that accurately assess prescribing skills, ensuring that candidates are well-prepared for the challenges of real-world clinical practice.


Utilising BPS Assessment resources can empower institutions to prepare their students, guiding them to reach a level of competence in prescribing medication that ensures both safety and effectiveness, thereby significantly reducing the risk of patient incidents arising from medication errors.

The Dacre Review: An Independent Review into the Prescribing Safety Assessment

The Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA) stands as a pivotal milestone in the journey of medical professionals, serving as a crucial evaluation of their competence in prescribing medications safely and effectively. Since 2017, it has been a mandatory part of the medical education curriculum, ensuring that junior doctors are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to make informed and safe prescription decisions. 


Recent developments have placed the PSA under a spotlight, as the findings of the independent Dacre Review have shed new light on its structure, content, and overall impact. In this blog, we delve deeper into the Prescribing Safety Assessment, exploring its significance in medical education, and examine the key takeaways from the Dacre Review. 


Unearthing insights: Why the Dacre Review was commissioned


In 2022, the British Pharmacological Society and the Medical Schools Council jointly commissioned an extensive review of the PSA. The goal was to evaluate the exam’s effectiveness and determine its future direction. The review was overseen by top representatives from across the NHS and medical education programme in the UK, who under the chair of Professor Dame Jane Dacre, have proposed a set of recommendations for the exam. 


Headlines from the Review


The findings from the review can be boiled down to some key themes, we’ve summarised them below; 


Support for the Prescribing Safety Assessment 


The consensus among stakeholders and echoed by the oversight group is that there is widespread support for the PSA. Many understand that prescribing has changed and will continue to change with the introduction of new medications coupled with prescribing in an ageing population, giving rise to complex challenges which junior doctors need to be prepared for. This is where the exam not only presents an opportunity for students 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 not only focused on the exam’s effectiveness, but also considered its impact on both students and patients. The data suggests that the PSA is a robust tool for assessing prescribing competency and that since its implementation there has been little difference in the performance between medical schools and regions across the UK, an indication of its reliability.


Aside from the direct impact on students, there is evidence to suggest that the PSA also has had a positive effect on the safety of patients. Since the PSA was made mandatory in 2017, the percentage of medication-related patient safety incidents has reduced year-on-year.  


The Future of the Prescribing Safety Assessment  


The recommendations put forth by the Dacre Review mark a pivotal turning point for the future of the PSA. Among others, it highlights the need for sustained and equitable funding to ensure the PSA’s accessibility and continued improvement. As well as, better regulation and a more robust governance structure to enhance transparency and accountability, bringing together key stakeholders to guide its development and delivery. 


These recommendations collectively represent a promising vision for the PSA’s future, one that prioritises fairness, quality, and sustainability in assessing the prescribing competence of future healthcare professionals. The PSA is poised to evolve into a more effective and reliable assessment tool, forming an integral part of the medical education curriculum within the UK that is better equipped to prepare healthcare practitioners for the challenges of modern medicine.