Teaching of clinical pharmacology and therapeutics in UK medical schools: current status in 2009

Lelia O'Shaughnessy, Inam Haq, Simon Maxwell, Martin Llewelyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

center dot Junior doctors feel poorly prepared by their training in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics and commonly make prescribing errors.

center dot Since 1993 the General Medical Council's guidance on undergraduate medical education 'Tomorrow's Doctors' has emphasized the integration of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics teaching within the medical curriculum.

center dot With the publication of a new version of Tomorrow's Doctors in 2009, medical schools will be further revising their Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics teaching.


center dot Although we know what the recommendations for undergraduate teaching of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics teaching are, there are no published data describing what is currently happening in UK medical schools.

center dot This paper describes the course structures, volume and range of teaching and assessment of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics in the UK in 2009.

center dot Our data provide a foundation for schools looking to revise the Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics Teaching in the light of Tomorrow's Doctors 2009.


To describe the current structure, delivery and assessment of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (CPT) teaching in UK medical schools.


An online questionnaire was distributed to the person with overall responsibility for CPT teaching at all UK medical schools in June 2009.


Thirty of the 32 UK medical schools responded. 60% of schools have a CPT course although in 72% this was an integrated vertical theme. At 70% of schools pharmacologists have overall responsibility for CPT teaching (clinical 67%, non-clinical 33%); at 20% teaching is run by a non-specialist clinician and at 7% by a pharmacist. Teaching is commonly delivered by NHS clinicians (87%) and clinical pharmacists (80%) using lectures (90%) but additionally 50% of schools use e-Learning and 63% have a student formulary. CPT is assessed throughout the curriculum at many schools through written, practical examinations and course work. 90% of schools have specific CPT content in their written examinations. 90% of respondents believed that their students were 'fairly' to 'well' prepared for the foundation year but only 37% of schools gather data on the competence of their graduates.


CPT teaching in UK medical schools is very diverse. Most schools do not assess the performance of their graduates as prescribers and there is a lack of evidence that many of the teaching approaches employed are suitable for the development of prescribing skills. It is vital that developments in CPT teaching are driven by validated, real-world assessments of the prescribing skills of medical students and newly qualified doctors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-148
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


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