The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association have pressed the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) to announce a date for the 2020 registration assessment, which was postponed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a joint letter sent on 18 September 2020, the two bodies asked the regulator to “urgently clarify” the date, adding that the “delay and the lack of progress updates are causing considerable additional anxiety for those waiting to sit the exam”. It went on to say that some trainees awaiting the assessment are currently unemployed, working on short-term contracts or have visas that will expire before the assessment takes place.
The letter also urged the GPhC to ensure that no one is left at a disadvantage as a consequence of the delay.
Registration assessments usually take place in June and September. In March 2020, the GPhC and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland said the 2020 assessment would be postponed until late 2020 or early 2021, “once the situation is clearer”. It later said that the exam would be held online.
Trainees who have passed the MPharm and completed 52 weeks of preregistration training, but have not yet sat the registration assessment, are eligible to join a provisional register while await an assessment date.
However, the letter said provisional registrants have dealt with unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the need to “balance working as a responsible pharmacist alongside revising for the registration assessment”.
In a written response to the letter, Nigel Clarke, chair of the GPhC, said that the regulator understood the “significant stress” candidates have experienced and is “absolutely committed to holding a robust and fair registration assessment at the earliest opportunity”.
The GPhC is, the response said, in the “very final stages” of a procurement exercise to select a supplier for the online assessment. Once the decision has been made, the regulator will work with them “at pace” to identify a date.
“We appreciate it has taken some time to get to this point but, given the high stakes nature of the assessment, it is essential that we get this right”, the response said, adding that “we want to make sure that the new online platform supports all candidates, including those who may need adjustments, to complete the assessment to the best of their abilities”.
Paul Bennett, chief executive of the RPS, said the Society “appreciate this rapid response from the GPhC and are encouraged that they have taken our concerns onboard”.