By Neil Trainis
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has said it believes the registration assessment in March should go ahead but urged the General Pharmaceutical Council to ensure provisional registrants can take the exam remotely if they wish and to “urgently” consider requesting a change in law allowing other routes to full registration.
The regulator has come under pressure in recent days to scrap the assessment for prov-regs to allow them to support pharmacies during the pandemic. The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies were among those calling for the assessment to be postponed or scrapped.
The RPS, however, said the exam should continue but with “as much flexibility as possible for [prov-regs] to choose to sit the examination remotely, outside of a physical assessment centre, if they prefer".
The Society's official position contrasted with that expressed by English Pharmacy board chair Claire Anderson and RPS board member Mahendra Patel, both of whom have said on social media that the best course of action was to scrap the assessment. Mr Patel said this was "justifiable under the circumstances".
The GPhC told Independent Community Pharmacist that the assessment would be held online but “in the main candidates would be expected to travel to the nearest Pearson VUE test centre."
The RPS said it did not favour delaying the exam because that would make it “very challenging for trainees to prepare adequately and perform to their full potential”. It urged the GPhC to request a change in law giving prov-regs a route to full registration.
“The unprecedented circumstances in which we find ourselves warrant the GPhC requesting an extraordinary change to the law to allow this to happen. The GPhC must ensure that new alternative routes to full registration are fair and equitable for all trainees whilst, importantly, continuing to protect public safety,” the RPS said.
The professional leadership body said some prov-regs had reported being unable to prepare for the assessment because they are working long hours and cannot secure leave to study while there were “heart-breaking accounts” of others whose time is taken up caring for vulnerable people.
“These exceptional circumstances, which are causing provisional registrants significant stress and anxiety, mean the GPhC needs to act compassionately, flexibly and, above all, quickly to address the very real concerns from provisional registrants and their employers to the current situation,” the RPS said.
“The GPhC should also note the significance of this trainee cohort’s experience for the pharmacy education reform programme. The use of a single point high stakes assessment for entry to the register is flawed and the weaknesses of this approach have been exposed in the pandemic.
“We encourage the GPhC to adopt a different approach moving forward that uses multiple assessment points over a longer period and is more resilient to changing circumstances.”