Software could improve junior doctors’ prescribing skills

A new software-based program has recently been created for new graduate doctors to ensure that they prescribe safely from day one on the wards.

The SCRIPT (Standard Computerised Revalidation Instrument for Prescribing and Therapeutics) project has brought together a team of experts from Aston University, plus Birmingham and Warwick Medical Schools, to create the e-learning toolkit. The project was funded by the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority (SHA).

Junior doctors have to prescribe medicines from their first day on the wards. Their task is made harder by the many new drugs that have been introduced, as well as the rapid throughput of patients who are often sicker and older, and who are more likely to suffer side effects from drugs.

Sub-optimal prescribing among new doctors in their Foundation Year 1 (FY1) stage is common and can result in the underuse of effective medicines, adverse drug reactions and medication errors.

SCRIPT has been designed to introduce 38 key modules that will reflect the basic needs of FY1 doctors (the complete list can be found at www.aston.ac.uk/script). This will enable doctors to undertake basic revision and reach minimum standards in prescribing, and enable them to build upon their existing skills in safe and rational prescribing.

A staggered launch of the toolkit will take place from June 2011. Five modules will go live by the end of September 2010 − namely prescription documentation, medication errors, allergy and anaphylaxis, peri-operative prescribing and dangerous drugs.

Prof John Marriott, SCRIPT programme manager at Aston University, said: ‘Prescribing skills have been identified as a skill set of FY1 doctors that needs re-enforcement, since pressures on junior doctor learning are immense and sub-optimal prescribing can impose a burden on public health and jeopardise patient safety.

‘Improving the prescribing skills of doctors during their formative professional years will improve patient safety in the short term, and may bring long-term benefits in safe and rational prescribing.

‘Through our expert working groups, and in collaboration with our content authors, the SCRIPT team will establish the level of knowledge required about commonly used and important drugs.’