Provisional registration and online registration assessment planned for pharmacist pre-registration trainees

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the education and training of all future pharmacy professionals. Pharmacist pre-registration trainees have experienced particular challenges and disruption, after the registration assessment sittings in June and September had to be postponed.

June 2020

We know this has been a very difficult situation for trainees and their tutors, and we have been working hard to identify the best way forward.

Our approach has been informed by discussions with a wide range of stakeholders, including trainee representatives, professional leadership and representative bodies, employers and education and training bodies across England, Scotland and Wales. 

Registration assessment

We have been carefully considering when we may be able to reschedule the registration assessment and how it could be held. In particular, we have considered the current Government requirements in relation to social distancing and large gatherings and the possibility of such requirements either continuing or being re-imposed later.  On this basis, we have decided it is not a realistic option to try and reschedule sittings of the assessment within venues and are now intending to hold the registration assessment online instead.

We are planning to hold the registration assessment online as soon as possible, taking account of the necessary technical, security, accessibility and content issues. We anticipate this will be later this year, or early next year, once we have procured an online platform for the assessment. We will keep trainees and tutors updated on when it will be held and provide supporting information to help them prepare.

Provisional registration 

Due to the delay before a rescheduled assessment can take place, we have developed a form of provisional registration so that the majority of pre-registration trainees can begin working from August as they had planned to do. This is only being put in place as a temporary measure during the COVID-19 emergency and provisionally-registered pharmacists will have to sit and pass the registration assessment within a year to remain registered.

In developing our approach we established a set of principles (as set out in our policy statement). These principles reflect the essential patient safety considerations, the importance of maintaining the workforce pipeline so that pharmacy can continue to serve the needs of patients, and the considerable education and training that has already taken place and trainees’ expectations of joining the register from August.

We are grateful to everyone who gave views which helped to inform our policy.

Eligibility criteria for provisional registration 

Our policy sets out the criteria that this year’s pre-registration pharmacist trainees will have to meet to be eligible to join the pharmacist register on a provisional basis. It also outlines requirements that employers must put in place to support provisionally-registered pharmacists and to protect patient safety.

The criteria include; successfully completing 52 weeks' pre-registration training, not having previously failed the registration assessment and having received a final declaration from their tutor confirming that they have met all the performance standards and are safe to be registered provisionally.

All provisionally registered pharmacists will have to be employed directly by the organisation or business in which they are working (and so cannot work as a locum) and must practise under the guidance and direction of a senior pharmacist. The policy confirms they may operate as the Responsible Pharmacist.

We will also issue guidance for employers which will set out the framework in which pharmacists who are registered provisionally must operate, after carrying out further engagement with key stakeholders. 

The guidance will include information about the structured support that must be in place and the requirements that must be fulfilled by the employer when considering the location in which they will practise and the responsibilities they will be expected to undertake.  The policy states that employers must complete a risk assessment, provide access to a named experienced pharmacist for clinical advice; and enable other support such as access to a mentor.

We will continue to engage with stakeholders as we put this policy into practice, both to help inform our thinking on any particular points where we need to clarify the policy further, and to make sure that professional leadership and representative bodies, education and training organisations and employers are all able to play their part effectively in supporting trainees through this process.

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