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RPS recognises provisional registrants' exam concerns

The Chairs of the three national Pharmacy Boards in England, Scotland and Wales, Claire Anderson, Jonathan Burton and Suzanne Scott-Thomas today issued the following statement on the scheduled exam for provisional registrants:

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted significantly on the experiences of all pharmacy professionals and for those preparing to join the register.

There are many trainees that have been unable to work as provisional registrants and whose lives and careers have been significantly impacted by the prolonged delays to the registration assessment. For these individuals, we believe the March assessment should still take place but that there should be as much flexibility as possible for them to choose to sit the examination remotely, outside of a physical assessment centre, if they prefer.

Trainees should think carefully about being “fit to sit” and if they feel that their individual circumstances mean that they are unable to prepare adequately they should delay until the next sitting. If they do feel they will be ready to sit, we encourage them not to delay in applying to the GPhC.

Provisional registrant members on the frontline have told us they are working additional hours to care for patients and that they cannot secure annual or study leave. We have also heard heart-breaking accounts of those impacted by additional caring responsibilities that has left them unable to prepare for the examination. These exceptional circumstances, which are causing provisional registrants significant stress and anxiety, mean the GPhC needs to act compassionately, flexibly and, above all, quickly to address the very real concerns from provisional registrants and their employers to the current situation. Holding a delayed examination in the midst of a pandemic makes it very challenging for trainees to prepare adequately and perform to their full potential.

The GPhC should urgently consider additional routes to full registration for those that have been working as provisional registrants in positions where they have held professional responsibility for many months. The unprecedented circumstances in which we find ourselves warrant the GPhC requesting an extraordinary change to the law to allow this to happen. The GPhC must ensure that new alternative routes to full registration are fair and equitable for all trainees whilst, importantly, continuing to protect public safety.

The GPhC should also note the significance of this trainee cohort’s experience for the pharmacy education reform programme. The use of a single point high stakes assessment for entry to the register is flawed and the weaknesses of this approach have been exposed in the pandemic. We encourage the GPhC to adopt a different approach moving forward that uses multiple assessment points over a longer period and is more resilient to changing circumstances.

We continue to be incredibly grateful to all provisionally registered pharmacists for their enormous contribution to patient care during this very difficult time.

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