The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has announced plans to make the assessment papers that pre-registration pharmacists take to qualify more clinical in focus in order to produce more clinically competent pharmacists.
The one-day assessment, which has retained more or less the same format since it was introduced in 1993, will require candidates to apply knowledge to clinical cases, moving away from a focus on facts alone.
“The scope of pharmacy practice and its role in healthcare have changed very significantly since the assessment was first introduced in 1993,” says General Pharmaceutical Council chief executive Duncan Rudkin. “The changes agreed by the board of assessors will enable trainees to demonstrate their ability as more clinically competent pharmacists.”
Pre-registration pharmacists will not be able to bring in copies of the British National Formulary (BNF) and the BNF for Children to use for reference. Instead, they will be expected to rely on information from photographs, patient information leaflets and other “artefacts”, such as patients’ medicine charts, as part of the exam.
David Miller, chief pharmacist at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, welcomes the changes and says their focus on outcomes will benefit patients, as well as pharmacy. “The more that the exam reflects true practice and the ability to put knowledge into practice then the better the outcome for the patient, the students and the profession,” he says.
For the first time, candidates will be allowed to use calculators in the assessment. The move follows changes to the content of A-level mathematics.
The GPhC also intends to introduce new types of multiple choice questions to reflect current evidence about the best way to assess clinical judgement. Out go multiple completion and assertion reason questions. In their place come two different kinds of multiple choice questions: one type will ask candidates to give a single answer; the other will present candidates with a scenario in order to test his or her understanding of a variety of clinical applications.
“Clinical practice isn’t black and white,” says Miller. “It’s the reasoning that we want to determine. If the new assessment can measure the journey and can show that the pharmacist followed the right journey and has applied their knowledge then it’s a good way forward.”
The assessment changes reflect the recommendations from the GPhC board of assessors — the independent body that sets and moderates the registration assessment.