The pharmacy regulator has promised a rewrite of its standards to ensure “equality of opportunity” for all preregistration pharmacists, following data showing large differentials in pass rates by sex and age, and reports of “overt racism” during training.
In a drive to tackle variability in performance by preregistration exam candidates, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has announced that it will require pharmacy schools to be more “proactive” on equality and diversity.
The GPhC has also said that it plans to discuss equality and diversity practices with all preregistration training providers.
A paper presented to the GPhC council meeting, held on 12 July 2018, set out how an analysis of preregistration exam results since 2013 — broken down by categories including age, sex, ethnicity and which school of pharmacy the student attended — highlighted a ”marked difference in performance by ethnicity”, with the performance of black African candidates “tending to be low”.
On 5 February 2016, a GPhC-commissioned report found examples of “explicit prejudice and perceptions of implicit bias” towards black African students, particularly those from abroad, and suggested that this may be contributing to lower pass rates among this ethnic group.
The report also said that bias, “whether overt or implied”, undermined some black African students’ ability to learn, develop and reach their full potential.
Results from the 2017 preregistration exams show that white candidates had the highest pass rate (93.6%), and those with Pakistani (72.1%) or black African (65.6%) ethnicity had the lowest pass rates.
The GPhC also said that older candidates — in particular those aged over 35 years — and those specialising in community pharmacy had significantly lower pass rates in the preregistration exam, and there was variation between training providers and pharmacy schools.
The paper, presented to the council on 12 July 2018, said: “a consistent theme in this paper has been variability in performance by candidates and, linked to that, equality of opportunity.
“It seems logical, therefore, that the actions arising from our data analysis should focus on equality and diversity. With that in mind, we have identified three actions for us to take forward which we think build effectively on what we have learned from our analyses.”
The GPhC said it plans to “redraft its current initial education and training standards for pharmacists to require schools of pharmacy to have proactive equality and diversity policies and for schools to report on the implementation of them through accreditation” later in 2018.
The GPhC also said it would ask preregistration trainers to discuss their equality and diversity practices as it vows to tackle equality of opportunity among trainee pharmacists.
Some council members said the GPhC should bring in external expertise when considering equality and diversity issues . Council member Mark Hammond, visiting professor in public policy at Canterbury Christ Church University, suggested bringing in external expertise because of the “long running nature” of these issues.
“It would provide an additional level of validation and expertise, and demonstrate how seriously we take this,” he said.