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UK regulators postpone pre-reg exams over COVID-19 pandemic

GPhC and PSNI: The exams could be rescheduled for “the end of this year or early 2021”
GPhC and PSNI: The exams could be rescheduled for “the end of this year or early 2021”

The GPhC and the PSNI have decided to postpone all of this year’s registration assessments following the outbreak of COVID-19.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI) registration assessments could be rescheduled for “the end of this year or early in 2021”, the regulators said in a joint statement published today (March 26).

The GPhC’s registration assessments normally take place in June and September, while the PSNI’s take place in June and October.

However, having consulted different representatives including “student and trainee representative bodies, universities, [and] employers”, the regulators acknowledged the “significant pressures that pre-registration trainees are currently working under”.

These pressures will have a “major impact” on trainees’ ability to prepare for the registration exams, they said in the joint statement.

Responding to the pandemic

“We also recognised that more pharmacists will be needed to help respond to the pandemic and deliver care to patients and the public in the coming months, and that pre-registration trainees are expecting to be able to register and work as pharmacists from August,” the GPhC and PSNI added.

The regulators are now exploring the option of granting a “form of provisional registration for current pre-registration trainees”, they said.

“We are carefully considering what options will be in the best interests of pre-registration trainees, pharmacy services and the general public, whilst protecting patient safety,” they added.

Questions on the potential options, how they would work in practice and what support would be in place for trainees" with be answered as soon an possible once the regulators work with their partners "on the approach [they] are taking".

10 Comments
Question: 
Do you welcome the GPhC's and PSNI's decision?

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

With the way the public are acting, if any do register before they have taken the exam, they may just decide not to bother taking it later, and to go and find a nice, quiet peaceful job! 

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

Why not devise an on line exam?

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

yes good idea , maybe send it day before in pdf format which can only be opened at a certain time on exam day , done on computer , then sent back after time up , this way takes out internet connection problems if done live , those not ready have the option to opt out and take at later date ?

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

My experience  of the pre reg exam is those who are good pharmacists fail and those who should'nt be pharmacists pass , we need to revert back to the system where your tutor signs you off . Everyone has had a tough time , pre regs need some sort of a break , i think they should scrap the exam this year and revert back to the tutor's decision.

sudan gurung, Pre-reg Pharmacist

This is something that I had discussed with my work colleagues today and would like to read your opinions on it.

Extending current pre-registration training period to help with the ongoing health crisis: My concern with this is that from what I have found, pre-regs really are used as dispensers especially in community setting. This is an understanding from both my own pre-registration training and also working as a Locum dispenser for 3 years. And although there is a positive to this idea and pre-regs being on the dispensary will help in many ways, subjecting us to the registration exams and having us as a legitimate qualified pharmacist would be of a better value. Moreover, there’s also the matter of the time spent longer in training hampering with revision for the exam that so many of us have complained about.

Provisionally put pre-regs on register: I think the idea seems clearly to be unpopular amongst already registered professionals for various reasons. Personally, I don’t like it either as I wouldn’t want any questions to my capability as a professional and registration.

Revise the way registration exam is carried out, and reinstate June and September 2020 exams: although logistically challenging, I’m certain it’s attainable. Considering, there are approx. 2000 candidates giving registration exams each year, rather than creating 2 sets of registration question papers like in the past, why not create 10 sets of question papers. (I’m certain the examination standards setting team can adapt methods to calibrate the sets of question papers so that they are of equal quality and cover wide aspects of the assessment framework)Therefore, setting the registration exam for 10 days in a row where 200 candidates selected randomly at different assessments centres throughout the country with no more than 20 - 30 candidates in each give the exam. Perhaps this will allow all strict examination conditions to be maintained whilst ensuring social distancing and minimising contagion risk. Voila we shall have newly qualified pharmacists in August 2020 with the integrity of the register intact.

John Lenzan, Locum pharmacist

This seems an illogical and irrational solution, leave aside the issues of legal and professional liability, imagine the pre-reg's position if after practising as a "Pharmacist" for x months they take and fail an exam. A fairer route would be to extend the current pre-reg year for x months until conditions improve or a system for remote exam supervision can be devised. 

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sudan gurung, Pre-reg Pharmacist

There is teeth to the idea of getting current pre-regs as long as signed competent after 52 weeks training to be entered into the register. I think provisional registration will bring integrity of the register to question and open a pandora box of liability insurance and all sorts. After all it would be no different to pre- 2000 era when you came out with a 3 year degree programme of BSc in pharmacy and a year of pre-reg training, signed off as competent to practise in pharmacy. Of' course to previous candidates who have had 3 strikes into passing the pre-reg exam, and failed won't find this fair.... perhaps considering the ongoing situation, filtering out current pre-regs who graduated with 1st class in MPharm put on the register to ease off the pressure on frontline be appropriate 

Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

I have concerns about this idea too as it is indeed opening a can of worms.

Richard Grahame, Community pharmacist

This is utter lunacy.  Possibly the worst path they could have taken.  As I tutor I think it's really unfair.  My pre reg bates the idea.  As an employer what will insurance companies say about an error by a provisional registrant that makes an error and later goes on to fail the exam?  
No one is going to offer anyone in this situation any sort of job in my opinion.  I wouldn't.  This needs to be rethought and a different solution brought to the table.

Chris ., Community pharmacist

Employers will run hands. If they can register before exam they will take low wages and multiples will be delighted.

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