Hear from the experts: Improving prescribing confidence with the Prescribing Skills Assessment

doctor typing on laptop

On Tuesday 5th October, BPS Assessment and the Turkish Pharmacological Society hosted a webinar to examine how prescribing skills should be taught and evaluated in order to improve prescriber confidence and patient safety.


Professor Simon Maxwell, Medical Director of the Prescribing Safety Assessment, was joined by Professor Sinem Ezgi Gülmez and Professor Hakan Orer of Koç University School of Medicine, to discuss the importance of teaching prescribing skills.


The talks in this webinar:

  • Encouraging greater knowledge and skills amongst future prescribers (Professor Simon Maxwell)
  • Rational pharmacotherapy teaching: Groningen revisited (Professor Hakan Orer)
  • Continuous pharmacology training starting from the 3rd year of medical school till graduation (Professor Sinem Ezgi Gülmez)

The recording of this short webinar is available to watch now.

To speak to one of our team about implementing this assessment at your school or organisation, get in touch.


Prescribing Safety Assessment
now available to international candidates

smiling female doctor outside hospital

BPS Assessment is pleased to announce that the Prescribing Safety Assessment is now available to international candidates.

Prescribing is a fundamental role of doctors all over the world. It is a complex task, requiring both knowledge and careful judgement. As both modern medicine and patients’ needs become more complex, so do the prescribing decisions facing healthcare professionals.


The Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA), developed over 10 years ago, was created as the first single, national, online assessment of prescribing competency in the UK. Led and part-funded by the British Pharmacological Society and the Medical Schools Council, it became mandatory for year one foundation doctors to pass in the UK from 2016 onwards. Since then, the PSA has been commended for its impact on patient safety, receiving the education and training award for excellence in patient care from the Royal College of Physicians in 2020.


We are therefore pleased to announce that the Prescribing Safety Assessment – a UK-recognised professional qualification – is now available to purchase for international medical schools and their students.
“We are delighted to offer the Prescribing Safety Assessment Internationally for the first time. This vital test of prescribing competency has been developed in partnership with experts from across the prescribing field and is set to a UK standard. This new offer to international students supports our work to drive improvement in medication safety worldwide, through knowledge, assessment and learning.”
Rachel Lambert-Forsyth
CEO of the British Pharmacological Society and Managing Director of BPS Assessment Ltd.

About the Prescribing Safety Assessment

The Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA) allows candidates to demonstrate their competencies in relation to the safe and effective use of medicines in clinical practice. It is a mandatory certification, which all UK foundation doctors must pass in order to progress in their training. It is delivered by the British Pharmacological Society in partnership with the Medical Schools Council through its assessment arm, MSC Assessment and is predominantly taken in the final year of medical school.


The PSA is a summative assessment that includes eight question item styles developed to test the competencies defined by the General Medical Council (GMC).

“The PSA was developed in response to research which indicated that prescribing is the area which graduates find most challenging. While locally developed prescribing assessments were already in use by medical schools and hospitals, there was no nationally accepted measure of prescribing performance. It was therefore important for the creation of the PSA to be a collaborative effort. From its inception, the PSA has brought together experts from medical schools across the country to ensure it meets the high standards expected in UK medical education. Its introduction has ensured that foundation doctors have evidence that they are safe and competent prescribers before being able to progress in their training. It has also improved prescribing confidence and has helped those students in need of additional education and support. We hope that the International PSA will allow medical institutions from other nations to experience the benefits to patient safety and prescribing education that it has offered in the UK.”
Katie Petty-Saphon
CEO, UK Medical Schools Council
World map made up of medicines

UK standard

The format and standard of questions in the International PSA will be equivalent to those used in the UK PSA. The exam will feature a summative assessment paper developed by UK experts involved in producing the UK PSA, using a robust standard-setting process.


Students who pass the exam from international schools will receive a certificate endorsed by the BPS and MSC Assessment, identical to the certificate issued in the UK and will receive the same acknowledgement from the UK foundation programme.

International access

The UK is a world leader in prescribing education and was the first country to establish a national prescribing assessment, which is now widely recognised as a marker of basic competence to prescribe and supervise the use of medicines in modern healthcare. International medical schools now have the opportunity to offer the same level of competency assessment through the adoption of the PSA.


The PSA has seen positive responses from around the world as a powerful way of enhancing patient safety. Candidates who have prepared for and sat the PSA also consistently report greater confidence in prescribing medicines. It is anticipated that the International PSA will contribute towards achieving the World Health Organisation’s global patient safety action plan.


We are pleased to be able to respond to the persistent call from international medical students who are looking for an opportunity to sit and pass this summative exam by expanding access to the PSA to international medical schools. Candidates seeking to practise in the UK will benefit from demonstrating equivalent competency in prescribing in comparison to their UK qualified colleagues.

“The PSA has been a major innovation in UK medical education, helping prospective graduates to appreciate the importance of prescribing skills as a critical part of their everyday work. Preparing for and taking the PSA not only serves to develop confidence in prescribing but also highlights potential areas of weakness. The PSA has helped to encourage better undergraduate training in this challenging area and reinforces key messages relating to patient safety. I hope that this initiative to make the PSA more widely available will allow many more medical graduates to access the same qualification that has now been gained by nearly 70,000 UK doctors."
Professor Simon Maxwell
Medical Director, Prescribing Safety Assessment

Find out more

If you would like to offer this professional qualification to your students, please register your interest. We will contact you with further information and explain how the exam can be purchased and implemented at your organisation. You can also read the FAQs on the International PSA page.


We look forward to hearing from you.

New monthly feature in Prescriber magazine

prescriber on smartphone

We are pleased to announce a new monthly feature in Prescriber magazine that will allow readers to test their prescribing knowledge across a range of medication safety topics. Every month we will feature one question item from the Prescribing Skills Assessment question bank, brought to you by BPS Assessment, with answers and formative feedback provided.


You can try this month’s question item for yourself here.

prescribing skills assessment

The Prescribing Skills Assessment question items span 8 core areas of prescribing skills, from prescription review to drug monitoring. These questions cover a range of clinical settings, including General Practice, Paediatrics, Opioids and AMR and mirror the question styles used in the UK Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA).

This new monthly feature in Prescriber magazine will help bring these questions to an even wider audience, allowing readers to check their knowledge of common prescribing topics and get rich feedback.

Take a look at the new feature in this month’s issue of Prescriber or find out more about the full Prescribing Skills Assessment from BPS Assessment here and get in touch if you have any questions.

Celebrating Pharmacists

pharmacist in front of stocked shelves

On Friday, pharmacists all over the world were celebrated through World Pharmacists Day. We really enjoyed reading about all the ways our colleagues in pharmacy are helping transform global health care. Pharmacists and pharmacologists have different roles, but by working together they can make a positive impact by ensuring the safe and effective development and delivery of life-changing medicines.

“This year sees our 10th World Pharmacists Day. We aim to show how pharmacists contribute to a world where everyone benefits from access to safe, effective, quality and affordable medicines and health technologies, as well as from pharmaceutical care services.”

FIP President Dominique Jordan

Pharmacists and pharmacologists also work together to develop learning and assessment products for the prescribers and pharmacists of the future. Take a look at Lynne Bollington’s recent video, for example, to see how pharmacist knowledge is central to the development of the UK PSA, for example, which uses the same platform as our own international Prescribing Skills Assessment.

How We Support Pharmacists

As the learning and assessment branch of the British Pharmacological Society, we support pharmacists by developing high quality learning and assessment resources that drive improvement in medication safety.

The Prescribing Skills Assessment is particularly valuable for pharmacists. It’s a flexible online learning and assessment tool that allows pharmacists to develop and test their skills across 8 core areas of prescribing, from prescription review to calculation skills to ADRs. It includes over 1000 questions, all written by practising experts, that put the pharmacist into specific and realistic clinical scenarios. There is a specially developed pharmacists’ version of the Prescribing Skills Assessment that includes a tailored 30-item paper for pharmacists as well as two tailored 30-item practice papers.

Schools and organisations all over the world are now taking advantage of the Prescribing Skills Assessment for pharmacists, such as Health Education and Improvement Wales, who run the Prescribing Skills Assessment for their pre-registration pharmacist trainees, and GMU PharmD students who recently completed their Prescribing Skills Assessment.

We have also developed new BPS Assessment Simulators, affordable packages of content that offer targeted skills development for pharmacists in critical areas of prescribing such as Hypertension, AMR and Deprescribing.

Get in touch to find out more about the resources we have developed for pharmacists, including the tailored version of the Prescribing Skills Assessment. You can also read some of the pharmacist stories and experiences shared on Twitter via #WorldPharmacistsDay.

GMU PharmD students complete Prescribing Skills Assessment


We are pleased to share this press release from Gulf Medical University.

Gulf Medical University PharmD students undertake Prescribing Skills training and assessment in pursuit of “Patient Safety”

Pharmacy professionals play a vital role in delivering care and helping patients maintain and improve their health, safety and wellbeing. Patients and the public have a right to be prescribed safe and effective medications. Historically, pharmacist contribution to medication safety was focused on dispensing, Now, their roles have expanded as medication therapy has increased in complexity. While pharmacists have contributed to patient safety over the years as part of their many job-related responsibilities, they now recognize and embrace their unique training, which positions them to greatly impact patient safety through the global evaluation and improvement of medication safety processes.

For the first time in the Middle East region, GMU pharmacy students are undergoing training to enhance medication safety at the individual patient level through medication management skills, monitor outcomes and initiate efforts to mitigate drug-related outcomes that may cause harm. They participated in a yearlong training program during their Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) and completed a prescribing skills assessment. This was enabled by an academic collaboration between the British Pharmacological Society Assessment and GMU which resulted in a benchmarking exercise for GMU pharmacy education outcomes including prescribing skills against international standards. 

Dr. Sherief Khalifa, Vice Chancellor for Quality & Global Engagement and Dean College of Pharmacy commented:

“We are proud of our partnership with the British Pharmacological Society Assessment. Through this partnership, our pharmacy graduates are enhancing their prescribing skills which reflects directly on patient medication safety.”

Dr. Sherief Khalifa

Contact the BPS Assessment team for more information on running the Prescribing Skills Assessment within your own institution.

UNSW Medicine delivers successful PSA remote sitting

unsw medicine

We’ve been working with institutions all over the world throughout to help them deliver important education to their medical and pharmacy students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, one institution shares their experience of delivering the PSA remotely.

The University of South Wales in Sydney, Australia have been running the Prescribing Skills Assessment as a formative and mandatory assessment for their final year medical students since 2017. This year, the assessment was successfully conducted remotely, with over 280 students completing the exam using their own devices at home or an alternative suitable venue.

“Thank you to the team BPS Assessment Team and UNSW Medicine for enabling medical students to have the opportunity to sit the PSA exam remotely and safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

UNSW Medicine

Read more about the success of their remote sittings below, or contact us for more information on running the Prescribing Skills Assessment in your own institution.

Pioneering UK learning system adopted by Canadian medics to support medication safety

BPS Assessment is providing vital support to physicians in Canada, with the introduction of its pioneering learning technology aimed at ensuring safer prescribing techniques.

The agreement between BPS Assessment, the online learning arm of the British Pharmacological Society, and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (Royal College), aims to address the risk of medication errors and therefore improve public health. The World Health Organization estimates the annual cost of such errors to be over $42 billion USD worldwide.

The new assessment and learning technology offered by BPS Assessment will provide prescribing skills modules for Royal College Fellows, and give them the chance to sit an exam based on the principles of the UK Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA)*, which is already taken by UK medical undergraduates. The program, which will start in early 2019, following a substantial trial between the Royal College and BPS Assessment.

As part of the partnership, physicians will have access to online prescribing skills modules in Canada’s official languages (English and French), tailored for the needs of the Canadian healthcare context.

“These modules align with our priorities to provide our Fellows with engaging, relevant content to keep up to date on skills needed for treating patients in the 21st century,” said Dr Andrew Padmos, Royal College CEO. “We’re proud to be partnering with BPS Assessment to create solutions to this complex problem.”

Further, Royal College Fellows will be offered the opportunity to contribute to the question-writing process for the modules, which will help to customise the platform for the Canadian medical community.

“It’s timely that we’re launching this tool during Canadian Patient Safety Week. It’s a subject that resonates with physicians across all specialties and we’re pleased to provide this tool to help with their lifelong learning,” said Dr Susan Brien, Director of Research, Innovation and Scholarship at the Royal College.

By supporting prescribers with a rich online learning environment, the Royal College and BPS Assessment together aim to reduce the human and financial risks caused by incorrect prescriptions and by errors in guidance given to patients.

Jonathan Brüün, Managing Director of BPS Assessment, arrived in Ottawa during Canadian Patient Safety Week to sign the five-year deal. He commented:

“We’re delighted that the Royal College in Canada is joining counterparts in the UK, Asia and Australia in adopting our unique assessments. We believe this collaboration will provide a significant boost to improving standards in the safe administration of medicines, which we understand to be at the forefront of every prescriber’s mind. BPS Assessment is committed to improving public health and patient safety, and to helping physicians maintain their skills and standards. Our online training offers a unique contribution to those objectives. We can’t wait to get started.”

For more information please contact:

David Adams

Senior Manager, Marketing & Communications, British Pharmacological Society
Work: +44 20 7239 0180
+44 7786 552498

Melissa Nisbett

Senior communications specialist, Communications and External Relations
T: 613-730-8177 ext. 426
Cell: 613-218-9570


* The Prescribing Safety Assessment is the competency-based assessment to support safe and effective prescribing sat by UK medical graduates. It is delivered in partnership with MSC Assessment.

BPS Assessment Ltd is the assessment and elearning business of the British Pharmacological Society. Its mission is to drive improvement in medication safety worldwide through knowledge assessment and learning. It announced its initial pilot with the Royal College in May 2017.

The British Pharmacological Society is a charity with a mission to promote and advance the whole spectrum of pharmacology. Founded in 1931, it is now a global community at the heart of pharmacology, with around 4,000 members from more than 60 countries worldwide. The Society leads the way in the research and application of pharmacology around the world through its scientific meetings, educational resources and peer-reviewed journals.

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada is the home of specialty medicine in Canada, setting the standards for postgraduate medical education, supporting the continuing professional development of 50,000+ Fellows and affiliates, and supporting health system innovations nationwide. To find out more, please visit royalcollege.ca.

Australasian students to sit BPS Assessment prescribing skills pilot

A major prescribing skills assessment pilot is underway in 11 medical schools in Australia and New Zealand, delivered in partnership with BPS Assessment.

The project aims to measure the effectiveness and suitability of an assessment based on the UK Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA) for final-year medical students. It builds on a 2017 pilot scheme which assessed over 1,500 students from nine medical schools. With the University of Otago and the University of Queensland joining the 2018 cohort, student numbers are expected to be even higher this year.

Exams started in May and will continue until early December, with students sitting a two-hour, 60-question paper. The assessment has been reviewed and localised by a group of Australasian experts from each participating school.

ASCEPT (the Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists) and its members have been very supportive in promoting the assessments. The Australian Medicines Handbook team has provided the technical support required to enable the use of their online formulary by candidates. The New Zealand Formulary has provided support for the participating New Zealand medical schools.

Associate Professor Claire Harrison from Monash University, who is leading the Australian iteration said:

“This assessment represents a significant collaboration between Australasian institutions and BPS Assessment. Medication errors are a global challenge and educating new doctors in prescribing skills is one of the key ways to tackle it. Like BPS Assessment, I believe that assessment drives learning so I am delighted to be involved again this year and look forward to seeing the results.”


BPS Assessment Ltd is the assessment and elearning business of the British Pharmacological Society. Its mission is to drive improvement in medication safety worldwide through knowledge assessment and learning.

2018 Australasian pilot participating medical schools:

Deakin University

Monash University

University of Auckland

University of Newcastle

University of New South Wales

University of Otago

University of Queensland

University of Sydney

University of Tasmania

University of Western Australia

Western Sydney University