The preregistration assessment of June 2015 has caused much controversy among the pharmacy community in the UK. The overall pass rate of 74% was considerably lower than previous years and the pronounced difference in pass rates between hospital and community trainees (91% compared with 71%) concerned the pharmacy regulator, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). Trainees and tutors have raised concerns that questions in the exam were too difficult and did not reflect current practice, particularly in community pharmacy. Some also felt that the registration assessment syllabus was vague or misleading.
A survey conducted by the GPhC of preregistration tutors and trainees in 2013–2014 also painted community pharmacy in a less positive light when compared with hospital. Those who trained in the hospital sector reported higher levels of satisfaction with their training than their community counterparts.
A tutor has a responsibility to help their trainee get the most out of his or her preregistation year, ensure all competency requirements set by the GPhC are met and the trainee is ready to sit the assessment near the end of their training — and most trainees do. But The Pharmaceutical Journal has come across several anecdotal reports of preregistration trainees working in the community claiming they are not being trained properly and instead are being used as a member of staff to help out in a busy pharmacy, being bullied or not being allocated study time. One trainee said on Pharmacy Forum: “I quickly discovered I was to dispense prescriptions all day, effectively I became the second dispenser.” Another said: “I am running around doing the job of a dispenser and serving on the counter. And I feel as if I can’t even ask questions. I just have to work and keep my head down.” The charity Pharmacist Support has said it receives a number of calls from concerned trainees, and that these calls increase in the lead up to the registration assessment.
If a five-year pharmacy degree with embedded preregistration placements is ever universally introduced across the UK, we must assume that tutors will be assessed for quality. However, we cannot passively wait for this to become a reality — each year, thousands of trainees are sent forth to learn how to become pharmacists and many are let down by their tutors or the pharmacy owner.
In the meantime, we urge all tutors to understand and honour the commitment they have made to educate their trainees in a professional and compassionate way.
- This article was amended on 3o October 2015 to correct the June 2015 pass rate.