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Preregistration trainees have been promised “greater clarity” on the delayed summer pharmacy registration assessment by the end of May 2020.
The update was announced by Mark Voce, director of education and standards at the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), during a joint Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and British Pharmaceutical Students Association webinar held on 12 May 2020.
“I know it is frustrating that you’re not getting final answers,” Voce said, emphasising that the GPhC was “not trying to avoid” responding to concerns.
Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, had previously said the regulator was looking at “a range of different options” for the delayed preregistration assessment, including the possibility of trainees sitting the assessment online.
On 27 April 2020, Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC, wrote to preregistration trainees and tutors, telling them that the regulator was developing a provisional registration option for current preregistration trainees “who meet certain criteria” and suggesting that trainees would join the register in August 2020.
Gail Fleming, director for education and professional development at the RPS, said during the webinar that it was “a misconception to think of [provisional registration] as an extension to the preregistration year”.
The intention, Fleming said, “is that you finish the preregistration year and move on to the register as a pharmacist — but ‘provisional’ means that there may be some caveats or restrictions”.
Voce added that provisional registration would be “unique” in terms of joining the register before assessment. “It is important we think through what needs to happen”, he said, adding that while patient safety was the priority, it was important to ensure that the “right support network is in place” for provisionally-registered pharmacists.
Speaking to The Pharmaceutical Journal the day before the webinar, preregistration tutors and pharmacists said they needed clarity over the future of preregistration trainees.
Gareth Nickless, lead clinical liaison tutor at Wirral University Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), and programme leader for LJMU’s postgraduate diploma in clinical pharmacy for secondary and tertiary care, said: “[Preregistration trainees] don’t know when the exam is going to be. They don’t know what this provisional registration will entail or what it will allow them to do.
“Is there any ongoing assessment that’s going to be needed, of how they’re managing — given that they’ve potentially had a poorer last third of preregistration training because of the impact of coronavirus?”
Khalid Khan, head of training and professional standards at Imaan Healthcare, said he understood the difficulties faced by the GPhC.
“But the result is that a lot of preregistration trainees are just left in limbo in terms of planning for the exam,” he said. “Some of them have jobs lined up and they’re not sure what’s happening with those jobs.”
Nour Morjan, a preregistration trainee at Boots in Wellington, Shropshire, said many of her peers had decided to focus on their work in the pharmacy, rather than their training, to help as much as they could during the pandemic.
“The GPhC has acknowledged our contributions in this pandemic,” she said. “However, we feel very disappointed by the long delays in both providing answers to our questions and coming up with appropriate strategies regarding our professional roles now and in the near future.
“We do not know when the assessment will take place and how the provisional registration is going to be implemented in practice. Our employers don’t have answers regarding our employment status after our training is finished.”