Foundation trainees struggle to take registration exam after ‘technical issues’ cause delays

The General Pharmaceutical Council said it was “extremely sorry" for the severe delays experienced by candidates in Nottingham.
Students taking online exam

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has apologised after some candidates experienced long delays to sit the pharmacy registration assessment held on 29 June 2022.

Five test centres in England experienced delays in starting either Paper 1 or Paper 2 owing to “IT or other technical issues”. In the case of one centre in Nottingham, the delay was so severe that candidates could only start the first paper in the late afternoon, despite it being due to begin at 09:30.

The registration assessment is the final hurdle for pharmacy foundation trainees to join the GPhC register and has been run online across the UK since March 2021; however, this is the first exam run under a new three-year contract with global exam provider BTL.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, said the regulator was “extremely sorry” for the severe delays experienced by candidates in Nottingham.

“This is completely unacceptable, and we fully appreciate the significant stress and disruption this must have caused for them in such a high-stakes assessment.”

Rudkin added that if candidates in Nottingham failed the exam, it would not count as one of their attempts to pass.

In a tweet published on 30 June 2022, the GPhC said that it was carrying out an investigation into the delays at test centres in Nottingham and Birmingham and would be offering a full refund to affected candidates.

Sonya Whitworth, managing director of BTL, said: “We know how important these assessments are to the GPhC candidates, and wish to offer an apology for the disruption caused to the candidates sitting the assessment in the five centres that experienced delays.

“We have been working hard with our test centre providers throughout the day to resolve the issues, and we will be carrying out a full investigation with our test centre providers and will ensure that mitigations are put in place to prevent this happening again.”

In a statement published on 30 June 2022, Claire Anderson, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), said: “This is a terrible situation for candidates to be in and I fully understand their anger and distress. This was an appalling experience, especially for those affected by significant technical issues in Nottingham.”

Anderson called for affected candidates to be “provided with an early opportunity, well before November resits, to complete the assessment”.

Delays also occurred during the assessments in July 2021, when the registration assessments were run by Pearson Vue. Technical problems at the Redditch assessment centre in Worcestershire led to three candidates being forced to abandon their sittings and wait until November 2021 for the next opportunity to sit the exam. 

In the same year, the GPhC issued an apology to candidates who had reported problems in booking a place to sit the exam, including some Scottish candidates who could not book a place anywhere in Scotland.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2022, Vol 308, No 7962;308(7962)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2022.1.148226

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