Some candidates for the March 2021 registration assessment, who are living overseas, have been told they will not be able to sit the exam outside of the UK either in-person or remotely, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has said.
The GPhC had previously said it was “exploring the available options” for candidates living overseas to be able to sit the assessment from outside the UK with Pearson Vue.
However, in an email sent to some overseas candidates on 2 February 2020, the regulator said that it has “been unable to resolve the issues involved in providing sittings in the country where you are currently living”.
The email said that time differences between the UK and some candidates’ home countries meant that it was not possible for them to sit the exam in an overseas assessment centre, as these candidates would finish the assessment before others had begun, “and this means there is too great a risk of the assessment content being shared, inadvertently or otherwise”.
It also said that it was not feasible for candidates to sit the assessment remotely because it could not guarantee that places could be booked online through the Pearson Vue system and that candidates had expressed concerns about the potential difficulties of home environments “such as availability of suitable technology and internet connections”.
The letter added that candidates may still sit the March exam in the UK if they are able to return, and the GPhC would update candidates regarding summer and autumn sittings in the coming weeks.
Candidates had been required to submit their application to sit the assessment by 26 January 2021.
A spokesperson for the GPhC told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the regulator had “explored all potential options with Pearson VUE and unfortunately we have been unable to resolve the issues involved in providing sittings in countries where the time difference means candidates would be able to finish the exam before those in the UK start”.
“Candidates living in countries where the time difference is less significant will be able to sit in test centres in those countries,” they said.
Gail Fleming, Royal Pharmaceutical Society director for education and professional development, said the news was “very concerning”.
She said other professions “have been able to manage this risk and run international examinations, and we are disappointed that the GPhC is unable to make similar provisions”.
“The short notice period means that it will be practically impossible for trainees to undertake the assessment even if they wanted to, due to travel restrictions, limited flight availability and potential visa limitations.
“We are aware that trainees in Hong Kong, who have undertaken a UK pharmacy degree, require full UK registration to be able to practise in their home country, and this new announcement will therefore impact them significantly.
“We urge the GPhC to resolve this difficult position for many trainee pharmacists and protect our future generation of pharmacists.”