The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) have both urged the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) to reconsider how overseas-based candidates can sit the March 2021 registration assessment in their home countries.
On 2 February 2021, 69 overseas-based candidates for the March exam were told, in an email from the pharmacy regulator, that they would not be able to sit the assessment outside of the UK, either in-person or remotely.
The affected candidates currently live in countries with a six-hour or more time difference from the UK. The email said that the regulator had been “unable to resolve the issues involved in providing sittings in the country where you are currently living”.
The RPS wrote to the GPhC on 9 February 2021, with a letter signed by the organisation’s three national pharmacy board chairs, to say that it was “astounded that trainees have been given six weeks’ notice of this change”, and asked why the issue was not identified during the 2020 exam procurement process, which followed the GPhC’s decision to delay the summer 2020 registration assessment because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Expecting candidates to travel to the UK during a pandemic was “unreasonable”, especially to take an online exam, the letter said. It also highlighted the financial costs of travel and quarantine, as well as the impact on candidates’ mental health and wellbeing if they did choose to travel.
It added that overseas-based trainees should not be discriminated against, and should be “provided equal opportunities to UK-based trainees”. The letter concluded by urging the regulator to “review the current arrangements urgently to ensure that the principles of equality and fairness are upheld”.
In a statement published on 5 February 2021, the BPSA asked why overseas-based candidates have been “denied the opportunity for a remote sitting when remote sittings are available to other candidates”. It went on to “urge the GPhC to review this decision as a priority to prevent any more harm to these candidates”, and asked for “a clear justification for this decision and what steps are being taken to ensure the same issue does not occur again for the 2021 summer assessment”.
The GPhC was approached for comment.