Critical evaluation: Learning outcomes

Last updated: Monday, October 03, 2022

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to:
  • Assess the validity and usefulness of clinical trials. 
  • Describe the meaning of some common terms used to quantify the benefits and harms of a medicine. 
  • Outline how evidence from clinical trials is evaluated and applied by NHS prescribing committees.

You can download a PDF of the whole tutorial (without interactive elements such as the Learning exercises).

You should allow 90 minutes to complete this tutorial, including the Learning exercises.


If you are a hospital trainee pharmacist, this topic may help you achieve GPhC learning outcomes such as these:

  • LO 12 Take an all-inclusive approach to ensure the most appropriate course of action based on clinical, legal and professional considerations
  • LO 14 Work collaboratively and effectively with other members of the multi-disciplinary team to ensure high-quality, person-centred care, including continuity of care
  • LO 16 Apply professional judgement in all circumstances taking legal and ethical reasoning into account
  • LO 29 Apply the principles of clinical therapeutics, pharmacology and genomics to make effective use of medicines for people [including in their prescribing practice]
  • LO 30 Appraise the evidence base and apply clinical reasoning and professional judgement to make safe and logical decisions which minimise risk and and optimise outcomes for the person
  • LO 31 Critically evaluate and use national guidelines and clinical evidence to support safe, rational and cost-effective procurement  for the use, and prescribing (by others) of medicines, devices and services 
  • LO 41 Effectively make use of local and national health and social care policies to improve health outcomes and public health, and to address health inequalities

If you are a foundation pharmacist, this topic may help meet certain competencies from the RPS framework including:

  • 1.1 Applies evidence-based clinical knowledge to make suitable recommendations or take appropriate actions.
  • 1.6 Uses own pharmaceutical knowledge to positively impact the usage and stewardship of medicines at an individual and population level.
  • 3.2 Critically appraises appropriate information to make a decision in an efficient and systematic manner; adopts evidence-informed solutions.
  • 3.3 Demonstrates awareness of where to seek appropriate information to solve problems and make decisions.
  • 3.6 Demonstrates an understanding that data can support improving care; values the importance of the skills required for the interpretation, analysis and the effective use of data within clinical practice; considers how to use data to improve the outcomes for individuals.
  • 3.7 Takes the cost-effectiveness of a decision into account where necessary, working to the appropriate formulary.

Continuing professional development

Finally, here are some CPD activities you could consider:

★ When you see a patient prescribed a newly marketed medicine, search for the key clinical trials and practise evaluating one of them. Can you calculate an NNT and NNH based upon the data? Find out how much the medicine costs - do you think this represents good value for money?
★ Find out about the formulary application process in your Trust. Who can apply for a medicine to be added to the formulary? What happens after a medicine is approved? How is this information shared and who needs to know?
★ Shadow your critical evaluation pharmacist at a formulary committee or area prescribing committee meeting. Reflect upon the committee's decision making processes.