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Society welcomes new GMC guidance on prescribing and managing medicines and devices

Published: 05 Apr 2021 in Society news

Today, 5 April 2021, updated guidance on good practice in prescribing and managing medicines and devices, published by the General Medical Council (GMC) comes into force. The guidance supports doctors to be able to prescribe safely for their patients, regardless of the setting. It sets out the GMC standards for good practice when prescribing, either face-to-face or remotely. The guidance also responds to the increase in remote consultations which has come as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Society responded to the GMC’s initial consultation that helped formulate the newly revised guidance. Our response emphasised that, ultimately, the same principles apply whether prescribing face-to-face or remotely. This is because prescribing must be appropriate for a patient’s diagnosis (if this can be ascertained), set achievable goals, and take into account factors that influence the balance of benefit and harm for that individual. These factors are the essence of a rational approach to prescribing, regardless of the setting. We are pleased to see that the new guidance gives further clarity regarding the balance between the use of remote or face-to-face consultation, based on the patient’s needs and circumstances.
We are pleased to see that the guidance recognises that clinical pharmacologists play an important role in supporting education around the safe prescribing of medicines. The guidance also stipulates that to be able to practice good medicine, those following the guidance must maintain and develop knowledge and skills, where relevant to their role and practice. These include a sound knowledge of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics, of other competencies including prescribing and managing medicines, and of using electronic prescribing systems.
In addition, we emphasised the need for online providers to ensure that the appropriate identity checks are undertaken and that they have safeguards in place to prevent clients accessing prescriptions intended for someone else. We also highlighted that it would be helpful to use remote prescribing as an opportunity to signpost other services, for example to refer those requiring emergency contraception to sexual health clinics for ongoing contraception needs.
The Society has a longstanding commitment to improving education and training for safe prescribing. For 10 years, we have collaborated with the UK Medical Schools Council on the delivery of the Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA), a two-hour 60-item online examination taken by all UK final-year medical students and first-year postgraduate (foundation) doctors who graduated outside the UK. The PSA allows candidates to demonstrate their competence to prescribe and supervise the use of medicines at a basic level as they begin their training in the NHS. The PSA is the first large-scale national prescribing assessment and is probably one of the largest online medical assessments in the world. It is an excellent example of innovation in UK medical education and, in 2020, received the Royal College of Physicians’ Excellence in Patient Care Award in recognition of its impact. In September 2020, we celebrated 10 years of the PSA and its contribution to patient safety.
To complement our national assessment project, BPS Assessment (BPSA), the Society’s assessment and eLearning arm, has established a global presence in the delivery of online training resources in the safe and effective prescribing of medicines. As well as delivering international versions of the PSA, we have developed a portfolio of resources intended to foster improved prescribing, reviewing of prescriptions written by others, planning management of a variety of clinical presentations, providing relevant information about commonly used medicines, dose calculations, anticipating and treating adverse drug reactions, monitoring of the effects of medicines, and interpretation of relevant data. These resources provide essential knowledge and training that make an important and valuable contribution to patient safety. They are suitable for training medical students, junior doctors, pharmacists and nurses in safe medicines practices. These opportunities are aligned with the requirement, set out in the GMC guidance, to keep relevant knowledge and skills up to date.

Professor Simon Maxwell, Medical Director of BPSA and the Prescribing Safety Assessment said:

This updated version of the GMC’s guidance on good prescribing practice is to be welcomed and takes into account the emerging challenge of remote prescribing. It is clear that a firm grounding in the principles of clinical pharmacology continues to underpin rational prescribing.

The British Pharmacological Society has made a major contribution to improved training pathways for prescribers of all backgrounds through its work to establish the Prescribing Safety Assessment. This PSA and the associated training packages have provided much needed emphasis on this most challenging area of medical education. This innovative project has attracted international attention and has already involved around 100,000 prescribers worldwide

Further information about the Prescribing Safety Assessment and BPSA.