Black candidates were found to have the lowest pass rates following the March 2021 sitting of the registration assessment, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has said.
Council papers, published ahead of a GPhC council meeting on 10 June 2021, showed that 80.51% of ‘Black or Black British: African’ candidates passed the assessment — the lowest of all the ethnicities recorded by the GPhC.
The second lowest pass rate was seen among ‘Asian or Asian British: Other’ candidates, who achieved a pass rate of 80.54%.
Meanwhile, ‘White British’ candidates achieved the highest pass rate of 96.6% — 16 percentage points higher than black African candidates — followed by ‘Chinese or Chinese British candidates’ who had a pass rate of 96.19%.
Overall, 88.2% of candidates passed the March 2021 exam.
However, the March 2021 results show a narrowing of the ongoing gap between the pass rate achieved by black candidates and white British candidates.
In June 2019, the most recent sitting of the summer assessment because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the GPhC reported a gap of 30 percentage points between the pass rate of black African candidates (61%) and white British candidates (91%). This was an increase of 4 percentage points on the June 2018 assessment, when Black African and white British candidates achieved 66% and 92% pass rates, respectively.
Nigel Clarke, chair of the GPhC, told The Pharmaceutical Journal in February 2019 that the ongoing differential in pass rates for black African candidates was “deeply unsatisfactory”.
Elsy Gomez Campos, president of the UK Black Pharmacists Association (UKBPA), said that although the March 2021 pass rate was an improvement on previous years, it “is not encouraging to still see students from black ethnicity performing worse than their non-black counterparts”.
“At the UKBPA we encouraged members that were sitting the registration exams in March 2021 to access the wide range of support made available to them, some of which were organised and led by our own members,” she said.
“During the pandemic, many employees were working under an unprecedented pressure and provisionally registered pharmacists played an important role in providing pharmacy services while preparing for the exams,” she continued.
“The uncertainty with the remote exams arrangements may have affected some students more than others.
“Still, we know that some black candidates may have had to deal with additional historical pressure such as carers’ responsibilities, employers’ lack of support or flexibility to take time off to study, racial discrimination resulting in having to change or considering changing placement, being scared to raise concerns about unfair treatment for fear of repercussions, among others.
“We must acknowledge that having one particular ethnicity always at the bottom of the performance table tell us a story of race inequality that the pharmacy profession is still struggling to address and put right. Therefore, we must do more to close the gap,” she added.
In its report on the March 2021 assessment, the GPhC said the overall pass rate was “at the upper end of the normal range, but the March 2021 cohorts are atypical, in that some candidates had been training for significantly longer than usual and most had been working as provisionally registered pharmacists”.
“As the board of assessors has pointed out in its report, this does mean that comparisons with previous cohorts cannot be made easily,” it said.
“We have commissioned research into the experience of trainees/provisional registrants, which will be shared publicly when it is available, and it may shed some light on their experience of sitting the registration assessment.”