The pharmacy regulator has apologised to registration exam candidates after some reported problems in booking a place to sit the exam, including some Scottish candidates who could not book a place anywhere in Scotland.
Provisionally registered pharmacists took to social media after they were invited to book a place at one of the exam centres being run by Pearson VUE for the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) for the exam on 17 and 18 March 2021.
In an open letter to the GPhC, published on Facebook on 25 February 2021, Josh Farrell, a provisionally registered pharmacist, said that “within minutes” of receiving an email allowing him to book the exam, availability of locations had “disappeared”.
“And now countless [numbers] of us are having to travel hours and miles away from home in order to sit our registration exam,” he wrote.
Similar accounts were shared on the same day by other provisionally registered pharmacists on Twitter.
A spokesperson for the GPhC said that they were aware that some candidates had experienced issues when booking their place for the registration assessment.
“We are very sorry for the worry and anxiety this has caused and we would like to reassure these candidates that we are working hard with Pearson VUE to identify how we can resolve these issues.
“The vast majority of candidates across England, Scotland and Wales have been able to book a test centre, with 2,705 having successfully registered their places so far.
“We understand some candidates across Great Britain who have booked places may have to travel further than they may have anticipated to sit the assessment. Pearson VUE test centres are COVID-secure and are complying with social distancing requirements to ensure the safety of candidates. As a result, capacity at each centre is reduced which explains why, unfortunately, some people will have to travel longer distances than they may wish to.”
The spokesperson said that they recognised that candidates in Scotland had faced particular challenges, that some candidates had not yet been able to find a test centre within Scotland and that they were “urgently exploring” all possible options with Pearson VUE to try to release more places within Scotland and will keep candidates updated on progress.
“We can reassure candidates that they are able to travel to sit the assessment as an essential activity. We do however recognise the challenges of travelling long distances and staying away from home during national lockdowns.
“For candidates that have booked to sit the assessment in a test centre that is a significant distance from their home, we will work with Pearson VUE to try and find a more convenient option, although we cannot guarantee this.
Gail Fleming, director for education and professional development at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), said: “With just three weeks to go until the assessment, this is incredibly difficult for provisionally registered pharmacists who have worked so hard to provide the best possible care for patients throughout the pandemic.
“It is important that there is sufficient capacity so trainees avoid having to travel any significant distance to take the assessment, especially during a national lockdown. We are also seeking confirmation of the timing of assessment sittings which assure the integrity of the assessment.”
Fleming said that the RPS had contacted the GPhC to seek urgent clarification.
“Trainees will be focused on their exam preparation and must not have distractions such as trying to find a test centre. It is critical that this issue is resolved quickly,” she said.
In his letter to the GPhC, Farrell also wrote: “Yet again we are in limbo and yet again we face uncertainty.
“We have faced the most challenging preregistration year any cohort has had to face, in circumstances never seen before, nor could have been predicted.
“This isn’t just a matter of receiving another exam result and a pat on the back, this is our livelihoods that are depending on this.”