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PJ Online | Articles | Supplementary prescribing training: the CPPE e-learning programme

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PJ Online homeThe Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 272 No 7300 p645-646
22 May 2004

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Supplementary prescribing training: the CPPE e-learning programme

In this article Angela Trikic describes the development of an e-learning programme to provide the educational support for pharmacists to become supplementary prescribers

Angela Trikic is assistant director — open learning at the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education, University of Manchester (e-mail

The Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE) has developed an e-learning programme that provides support for pharmacists wishing to become supplementary prescribers. The programme content is based on the syllabus specified by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the supplementary prescribing competencies developed by the National Prescribing Centre (NPC). It is the unsurprising similarity of prescribing competencies developed for each professional group that makes the e-learning programme a useful resource for health professionals preparing to take on a supplementary prescribing role. The programme facilitates support for supplementary prescribing in different health care settings. Modules focus on clinical governance, inter-professional working, medicines management and patient safety issues, in order to promote the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for competent and confident prescribing practice. The CPPE e-learning programme is designed to complement accredited higher education institutions providing supplementary prescribing courses that will usually include face-to-face sessions along with arrangements for management of supervision of the practice placement.

Programme summary





Case notes in supplementary prescribing



Communication and patient-centred consultation



Influences on and the psychology of prescribing



Principles and methods of monitoring



Legal, policy, professional and ethical aspects



Evidence-based practice and clinical governance



Prescribing in the public health context


NICPPET=Northern Ireland Centre for Postgraduate Pharmaceutical Education and Training

SCPPE=Scottish Centre for Post Qualification Pharmaceutical Education

CPPE=Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education

Since the programme is relevant to all practitioners training for a prescribing role with its focus on prescribing competencies, it also provides a suitable educational resource for nurses and other allied health professionals and expressions of interest have already been received from nurse course leaders and optometrists.

In developing the e-learning programme the CPPE has facilitated module teams drawing on wide ranging clinical, practitioner and educational expertise and experience from colleagues across the UK. Colleagues participating in the project fall into two broad categories, those with higher education experience and those practitioners working for primary care trusts, community pharmacy or secondary care. This means the CPPE was able to draw together relevant and realistic case material and self-assessment activities with robust academic content. Using critical feedback from module teams and undertaking three stages of course development and the same number of proof stages ensures that programme quality is of a high standard. The e-learning programme is currently being piloted by the University of Derby, Liverpool John Moores University, City University, London, and Reading University.

The production of the course materials demonstrates the value and benefit of having a national centre like the CPPE that can orchestrate the limited availability of educational and practitioner resources distributed widely through primary and secondary care organisations, to maximise programme quality. It will also relieve current and potential course providers who register to use the programme from undergoing a similar development process, enabling them to focus on complementary assessments and practice placement support — a win-win outcome for all key players.

Why develop an e-learning programme?

It is expected that the wide range of health economies with diverse socio-geography will generate patchy and varying needs for supplementary prescribing educational provision. Also, as an increasingly mobile and dispersed workforce, pharmacists can benefit from the flexible access that this method of learning offers.

The attributes of e-learning seem to offer a solution to pharmacy workforce training needs in this context. As a method of learning that generates opportunities for learners to use IT and communication tools, it affords flexible access over different locations and times via the internet and can be conducted on distributed or mobile technologies.

e-Learning then provides a serious means of addressing widening access to training resources, provides efficiencies in programme origination and maintenance (see later) and, by boosting training capacity, will help to increase the numbers of supplementary prescribers and the quality of service provision.

About the e-learning programme

e-Learning is offered as a platform for accessing the supplementary prescribing programmes to complement accredited course schemes. Some features available in the e-learning programme are described below.

Online learning The value of online learning is that it can help in the development of search and information retrieval skills. Working for the NHS makes such skills increasingly important for maintaining currency of information in fields of practice. The e-learning programme points to the availability of well-maintained health websites representing specialist therapeutic and disease states, the Department of Health website, higher education websites and others. The CPPE has used the opportunity to filter good, reliable websites and has supplied ample possibilities for pursuing more detailed coverage of topics using the web.

Online assessment All modules include learning activities designed to support self-assessment and reflection. Self-assessment activities provide an opportunity to test knowledge and understanding of concepts, techniques and practice procedures. Answers and comments are provided as appropriate, offering immediate feedback with a mouse click.

In addition multiple-choice question (MCQ) tests have been prepared. These are in the form of a question statement with four true or false options. Course providers wishing to register to use the e-learning programme will be offered use of the MCQ tests.

Online discussion The CPPE has the facility to support pharmacists’ online discussion forums, managed by an e-tutor, to stimulate discussion on supplementary prescribing issues. Online forums allow discussion of more complex cases where prescribing decisions may necessitate consideration of conflicting or difficult social and medication aspects. Opportunity for confidential online discussion gives an opening for airing uncertainties and receiving peer support. With the wide availability of computer-mediated communication tools such forums can be initiated by course providers with e-tutoring capability.

Online feedback The feedback form will be used to help update tasks and enhance the e-learning programmes. We hope this will be a source for capturing new case material that can be represented in future versions of the programme.

Downloadable practice portfolio

The practice portfolio is an innovative assessment tool designed to be completed throughout the programme. It can be downloaded from the supplementary prescribing website and completed on the learner’s desktop computer. The structure of the portfolio remains unchanged since the rows expand to accommodate entries made.

The e-learning programme offers practice opportunities that prompt planning and recording in the portfolio against the set of prescribing competencies for which progress is being made.

Opportunities to develop clinical management plans (CMPs) in therapeutic areas relevant to a pharmacist’s practice can be tested out in the practice placement and recorded in the practice portfolio. The portfolio therefore helps to integrate, structure and support professional development in supplementary prescribing. The placement offers opportunities for constructing CMPs as well as changing and monitoring practice. The portfolio, designed for use throughout the programme of study, supports use of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society continuing professional development cycle. It is structured to be a tool to identify learning needs, and gives opportunities for reflection and recording. It also provides documented evidence for the trainee, the supervisor of the clinical placement and the sponsoring authority that the learning outcomes are being met. In this sense it can be used as an assessment tool that demonstrates competent practice is achieved.

Maintaining the e-learning programme

By prioritising the development of an e-learning programme, efficiencies are gained when it comes to implementing programme updates. The CPPE is already commissioning work as preparation for making the accuracy of clinical and practice information future proof. The CPPE is committed to maintaining the accuracy and development of this site annually or more frequently in the event of major changes. It will be developing a content management system to automate the programme update process enabling greater focus on design enhancement. By using the attributes of web technology to engage learners, for instance, more videotaped communication and consultation cases and exercises are planned.

For more information about the programme visit the CPPE website at

Practising partnership

The development of the programme was fully supported by the Department of Health. The CPPE produced a supplementary prescribing programme as part of a UK project conducted collaboratively with sister organisations, led by Arlene Brailey and Rose Marie Parr for the Scottish Centre for Post Qualification Pharmaceutical Education, and Fran Cassidy and Colin Adair for the Northern Ireland Centre for Postgraduate Pharmaceutical Education and Training. Preparations were assisted by a broader advisory group including representation from the UK CPPEs, the Society, the NPC and the deputy chief and principal pharmacist from the Department of Health. Given the size and complexity of the project as well as the timescale planned to develop it, collaborating on a division of labour to produce the programme maximised benefits for the three participating centres.

Getting access

At present supplementary prescribing courses are accredited for higher education institutions. We have therefore developed a means of giving access to higher education providers offering supplementary prescribing courses. Individuals wanting to access the programme will need to approach their local course provider.

In order to license the supplementary prescribing website to higher education providers we have registered the programme with Athens, a UK access management system ( The cost of registration and the first year licence fee is £200. There will be a fee of £100 per annum for subsequent use. If you would like to make use of the e-learning programme and obtain a copy of the license please contact Sue Carrette at Higher education providers may also wish to purchase the three print-based CPPE modules listed above. Contact Ms Carrette for details.

If PCTs or other course providers gain accreditation in the future, access to the e-learning programme can be made available since Athens serves both higher education and the NHS.

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