The pharmacy regulator has said it expects that the delayed summer 2020 preregistration assessment for provisionally registered pharmacists, scheduled for 17 and 18 March 2021, will go ahead as planned.
In a statement published on 8 January 2021, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) said that Pearson Vue — the provider of the sites where the assessment will take place — “has confirmed their centres will remain open for essential healthcare examinations such as the registration assessment even if we are still in national lockdowns in March”.
The regulator is “very aware of the significant stress and pressures that candidates have experienced during the pandemic”, it said.
But it added that it considers the assessment to be an “essential step towards full registration” and that it was “not feasible to introduce alternative routes to registration for provisionally registered pharmacists that would uphold standards, protect patient safety and be fair to all candidates”.
The GPhC emphasised that candidates had the option to sit the exam in summer 2021 if they felt that they were not “fit to sit” it in March. It added that candidates may decide that they are not fit to sit because of the “impact that the pandemic has had on their health and wellbeing, or on their ability to prepare adequately for the assessment because of pressures at work or caring responsibilities at home”.
Provisional registration will continue until the summer, it confirmed.
The British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) said that, while it supports the decision to hold a registration assessment sitting in March 2021, provisional registrants who choose to sit in March should not be removed from the provisional register if they fail the assessment.
“Sitting an assessment under such tough conditions and in a new environment and setting is certain to lead to competent pharmacists falling below the required standard on the day,” it said.
The BPSA also called for the provisional register to be extended past July 2021, and to continue for at least six months “post-pandemic” to “ensure each candidate can have adequate preparation time without the current additional pressures”.
On 8 January 2020, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said that it believes the March assessment should take place, but with flexibility for candidates to choose to sit the examination remotely, outside of a physical assessment centre, if they prefer.
The RPS went on to say that the regulator should “urgently consider additional routes to full registration” for provisionally registered pharmacists who have spent several months working in positions of professional responsibility. It added that current circumstances “warrant the GPhC requesting an extraordinary change to the law to allow this to happen”.
The Society added that it had heard from provisional registrants who had been unable to take annual or study leave, and others who have additional caring responsibilities that has “left them unable to prepare for the examination”.