Just under 400 candidates withdrew from the registration assessment held in March 2021, The Pharmaceutical Journal has learned.
A spokesperson for the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) told The Pharmaceutical Journal that 390 candidates withdrew from the March 2021 assessments. This is more than double the number of withdrawals from the main summer 2019 registration exam (172), and almost three times the average number of withdrawals (134) over the past five summer assessments.
In March 2020, the GPhC took the decision to postpone the June and September 2020 assessments because of the pressures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The assessment was originally going to be held online, but the GPhC eventually decided that candidates in Great Britain should sit the assessment in centres run by PearsonVue. The postponed assessment was held across two days, on 17 and 18 March 2021.
Some provisionally registered pharmacists due to sit the exam had reported that they had been unable to book a place at an assessment centre in their local area. The GPhC issued an apology for the problems some candidates were experiencing when trying to book an assessment, recognising that candidates in Scotland had faced particular difficulties booking at a site in their home nation.
In a briefing published on 5 March 2021, the regulator said that the “vast majority” of candidates across Great Britain would be able to sit the registration assessment within 50 miles of their home address.
Some overseas candidates complained to the regulator when told that they would not be able to sit the March 2021 assessment remotely, but the GPhC then said that it would allow candidates living in countries with a two-hour or greater time difference to the UK to take the exam online.
In total, 2,670 candidates sat the March 2021 assessment over the two days.
Eligible candidates were allowed to withdraw from a sitting at any time up until the assessment began, and to notify the GPhC of this up to five days after the assessment date.
In 2019, a total of 3,125 candidates applied to sit the summer assessment, of whom 172 withdrew. The autumn 2019 assessment saw 1,165 applications, and 102 withdrawals.
In summer 2018, there were 3,098 applications and 148 withdrawals, and in autumn 2018 there were 949 applications and 113 withdrawals.
In a statement published on 8 January 2021, Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, had acknowledged the “significant stress and pressures” that candidates had experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the regulator would “stress to candidates that they should use their judgement when deciding whether to sit the assessment in March  and should only sit if they feel fit to do so, bearing in mind they could decide to sit in the summer”.