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GPhC faces calls to scrap this year’s exam

The GPhC is facing calls to scrap the requirement to sit a registration exam for the current cohort of provisionally registered pharmacists.

As the regulator comes under fire for delays in issuing an exam date for this year’s candidates, who have been allowed to practise as pharmacists since August through the creation of a provisional register, some have argued that the exceptional circumstances this year mean an assessment is unnecessary.

Welsh pharmacist Gary Evans pointed out that provisionally registered pharmacists have been allowed to act as Responsible Pharmacists “in sole charge of a community pharmacy or ward” and said “if they can do that then the exam isn’t necessary… more stringent revalidation would be good, but the exam is an unnecessary burden this year”.

Former GPhC council member Mohammed Hussain said this year’s intake “have had the toughest exam of all; they didn’t take an exam, they went through it, they lived through a live OSCE for months… prospective monitoring through revalidation is the best way forward for them”.

Some questioned whether the registration exam is fit for purpose in its present form. Abby Clark said: “The pre-reg exam doesn’t reflect the quality of pharmacist you are but merely how well you can parrot the BNF. The focus of the new exam should be on actual practice rather than an outdated method of assessment.”

Kyra Jones, a provisionally registered pharmacist and PDA representative, asked: “Is it really fair to expect our cohort to deliver flu jabs during the second wave of a pandemic, continue working as normal and study for an exam? This will undoubtedly result in stress, burnout and anxiety.”

‘Scrapping the exam would be a nightmare’

Others defended the need to hold an exam. Greg Lawton wrote: “Insisting on taking the exam in order to demonstrate fitness to practise for the sake of the public would be a good example of altruism and professionalism. This is especially important in light of the fact that around 25 per cent fail the exam at first attempt.”

Kevin Cahill tweeted: “The GPhC can’t set a precedent of no assessment without completely revolutionising the way we register pharmacists in this country. To do this without engaging all stakeholders would be a nightmare for all.”

Another pharmacist posted: “Before commenting on how bad you have been supposedly treated by the regulator, this is the start of your career. You have a lifetime of learning ahead of you.”

The GPhC and the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association have been approached for comment. The regulator said earlier this week that it was in the final stages of choosing a provider to stage an online registration assessment, and that candidates can expect to receive an update next week.

PDA: 'Traditional exam may not be required'

The Pharmacists' Defence Association told Pharmacy Network News:  "The facts are that having provisional registrants in 2020 is a unique situation and needs to be treated as such. The GPhC have allowed those pre-registration pharmacists who were signed off by their supervisors to enter practice, albeit subject to additional restrictions and supervision. As such, they are gaining experience that a “normal” cohort of candidates for the pre-reg exam would not have.

"There has to be some sort of transition from prov-reg to pharmacist, and of course for all pharmacists at all times patient safety must be priority.

"However, we have consistently said that in these extraordinary times, the assessment required does not necessarily have to be the usual exam and that it should take into account the reality of the situation.

"Whereas “normal” exam candidates would have months or years to schedule their exam preparation, the prov-reg cohort are more than justified in concerns that they could be given the promised minimum 2 months notice of the exam."

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