Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the GPhC, said:
“We have been carefully considering the impact of national lockdowns, and the extraordinary circumstances in which provisionally-registered pharmacists are working, on the registration assessment.
“We are very aware of the significant stress and pressures that candidates have experienced during the pandemic. We greatly appreciate their patience and the enormous contribution they are continuing to make to the care of patients and the public during this hugely challenging time.
“We want to make clear to candidates that our position remains that passing the registration assessment is an essential step towards full registration. We are committed to holding a robust and fair assessment for candidates at the earliest opportunity.
“The registration assessment is the most effective method to maintain standards for entry to the pharmacist register in the current system of pharmacist education and training. It plays a key part in providing assurance to patients and the public that pharmacists have the knowledge and skills needed to practise safely and effectively.
“It is not feasible to introduce alternative routes to registration for provisionally-registered pharmacists that would uphold standards, protect patient safety and be fair to all candidates.
“We are making good progress with preparations for the March sittings and have already received over 1500 applications from candidates to sit in March. We are confident we can hold robust and fair sittings that are as safe as possible for candidates in Pearson VUE’s COVID-secure test centres. Pearson VUE has confirmed their centres will remain open for essential healthcare examinations such as the registration assessment even if we are still in national lockdowns in March. We are keeping the situation under active review but are expecting that the sittings will go ahead as planned.
“We would stress to candidates that they should use their judgement when deciding whether to sit the assessment in March and should only sit if they feel fit to do so, bearing in mind they could decide to sit in the summer.
“We know that many candidates do want to sit in March, including candidates who were not eligible for provisional registration, so they have the opportunity to register and work as pharmacists at the earliest opportunity.
“Being ‘fit to sit’ means that a candidate knows of no reason why their performance would be adversely affected during the assessment, because of illness or other adverse circumstance. Candidates may decide they are not fit to sit for a wide range of reasons, including the impact that the pandemic has had on their health and well-being, or on their ability to prepare adequately for the assessment because of pressures at work or caring responsibilities at home.
“Candidates who do not feel fit to sit can instead decide to sit in the summer, and provisional registration will continue until candidates sitting in the summer receive their results. We are working with Pearson VUE to ensure additional capacity for the summer assessment and will confirm those dates shortly.
“We would also emphasise to candidates that they can withdraw at any time up until the assessment sitting begins if their circumstances change and they feel they are no longer fit to sit. If they do withdraw, that assessment sitting will not count as one of their attempts, and they will receive a refund of their assessment application fee.
“In these very difficult times, we all need to work together to do everything possible to support candidates and give them certainty and clear answers to their questions. We recognise in particular that there are significant workforce challenges at the moment and are very grateful to employers and to pharmacy teams for all their efforts to support candidates and enable them to take study leave.”
Further information about the registration assessment is available on the Applying to sit the registration assessment page of the GPhC website. We will continue to regularly update the web page with key information and with answers to questions from candidates.