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Medication Training: is it Level 2 or Level 3?

Medication Training: is it Level 2 or Level 3?

If you’ve looked at other medication training courses from non-specialist general training providers, you may have seen they refer to a level: for example “Safe Handling of Medication: Level 2” or “Medication Management: Level 3”. What do these levels mean? and why don’t we include them on our courses?

Firstly, if you are thinking about levels in terms of what level of support a person needs with their medicines, click here to read this article we’ve written.

In terms of courses, levels are used when the subject being studied requires a formal qualification. These are subjects taught in schools, colleges and universities. For example:

  • GSCEs are level 2 qualifications
  • A-levels, and some BTECs are level 3 qualifications
  • A university degree is level 6
  • A masters is level 7
  • A PhD is a level 8

The levels help collages and universities compare students who apply for places (they know for example that some BTECs are the same as A-levels as both are level 3).

So what about medicines administration?

It’s still possible to study this subject (“Safe Administration of Medicines” or “Safe Handling of Medicines” etc.) as a formal qualification at level 2 or 3 (3). There are a few colleges that still offer this, although they are dwindling in numbers and hard to find. This is because studying medicines administration as a qualification, or stating a level isn’t something that’s asked for by:

  • Any of the care regulators (CQC in England, Care and Social Service Inspectorate in Wales or the Care Inspectorate in Scotland)
  • The best practice guidelines written by NICE (1,2)
  • Skills for Care, or Health Education England who co-wrote the Care Certificate setting out minimum training standards for healthcare support and social care workers (4).

So it’s not relevant to this subject. Also, we think there’s a more important reason for not studying this as a formal qualification. This is because the qualifications are based on modules written over 20 years ago (based on previous NVQ and then QCF standards). These standards were written before The Health and Social Care Act 2008 or NICE guidelines (1,2) hence are out of date and lack relevance in the modern workplace.

For example, the qualifications ask you to:

  • Identify key legislation, policies and guidelines relevant to the administration of medication. These courses require you to produce a list laws such as the Medicines Act 1968, the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. How does producing a list of these laws tell you how to administer and manage medicines? More modern, more detailed, and more relevant guidance is now written by NICE (1,2).
  • Describe common types of medication and their uses. There are currently more than 70,000 medicines available and that list grows every day. Which ones would we say are common, and how are you expected to carry that information around in your head?
  • Describe the common adverse reactions to medication and the appropriate action(s) required in line with agreed ways of working. A common side effect is defined as suffered by more than 1 in 100 but less that 1 in 10. With more than 70,000 prescribable medicines, there will be hundreds of thousands of common adverse reactions. It’s not possible to describe this many.
  • Describe the roles and responsibilities of those involved in prescribing, dispensing and supporting the use of medication. If you have a client who is wheezy because they are struggling to use their inhaler, how does describing the role of the person who prescribed it help them?

This is why studying this as a qualification (at level 2 or 3) is no longer relevant and why levels are therefore not relevant.

Instead, we agree with the care regulators and NICE who ask that medication training is relevant to your job role and teaches the knowledge, and more importantly the skills, required to administer medicines safely and accurately. If you have a person struggling to use their inhaler, you need to know how to correctly administer that inhaler (ideally with a spacer device). At the end of the day, giving medication is a practical skill that requires close attention to detail and practise to get right. So that is what we teach.

Our training is shaped by the competence checklists we have spent years putting together based on our research into why medication errors occur. It is endorsed by Skills for Care (with some courses also accredited by the Royal College of Nursing), it is commissioned by over 20 councils across the UK and many care providers who understand the value of practical and competence-based medication training.


(1) Managing Medicines in Care Homes (SC1). NICE published March 2014:

(2) Managing Medicines for Adults Receiving Social Care in the Community (NG67). NICE published March 2017:

(3) Unit HSC 3047 Support use of medication in social care settings. OCR awarding body:

(4) The Care Certificate Standards. Skills for Care.