COVID-19 Q&A: for pre-registration pharmacists; provisionally-registered pharmacists; and tutors

We have compiled answers to the questions we are being asked in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Categorised by theme, use the links below to navigate to the relevant section. 

Last reviewed 28 August 2020.

My current training

Sitting the registration assessment  

Provisional registration

The above link opens on a separate tab. See the information on provisional registration within the registration section of this website.  


My current training arrangements

What if I am not able to follow the GPhC pre-registration scheme requirements, that are detailed in the manual, due to COVID-19?

During a pandemic situation, we appreciate that your training site needs to be responsive to local changes and at times you may be under increased pressure to deliver pharmacy services beyond the expectations set out in your training plan.

This means that you may not be able to follow your plan, and it  may need to be adapted to allow your training to progress.

Safeguarding patient care and your own health are key priorities. You should follow government guidelines on taking precautions against COVID-19. Where it is no longer practical to follow the scheme requirements, we will take a flexible and proportionate approach. Check whether your situation  is covered below, and if not, contact us for further advice.

We would also highlight the recent joint guidance on pre-registration training issued by Health Education England, Heath Education and Improvement Wales, and NHS Education Scotland which may help tutors to support trainees during this time.
 

Does my tutor still have to complete my progress reviews?

Yes, progress reviews are still required. We understand that you and your tutor may need to reschedule these if your or your tutor’s circumstances change.

It is very important to keep an up-to-date working portfolio. If you have an unexpected change of circumstances, such as a period of absence or a move to a different training site, it will help you continue your training ‘seamlessly’.
 

What if I have more than 40 days of absence from my training placement?

If you are absent for more than 40 days during your pre-registration year, this may mean that you need to complete additional training to be signed off as competent.

It is ultimately up to your tutor, as part of their final assessment of your progress, to decide if you need to complete additional training at the end of 52 weeks. To make this decision, they will need to consider all factors that arise over the 52 weeks, and any impact that contributes to a delay in your training progression.

They will also record your absence as part of the final progress report and declaration.
 

If I have to self-isolate, will it count as part of my absence?

The impact of self-isolation on your training will be specific to you and your situation. It is likely to depend on which remote training activities you can carry out while you are self-isolating, for example. You should discuss this and your current developmental needs with your tutor to plan the time accordingly.

You should review your training plan to focus on activities that can be managed remotely and adjust the overall plan to make sure everything is covered by the end of the 52 weeks.

You will still need to keep a record of this absence so your tutor can report it to us as part of the final progress report at the end of the year.

If you need to take temporary leave, either to self-isolate or because of illness, you should speak to your employer or your tutor, and arrange your absence in the normal way. You do not need to let us know.

If you need to be absent for a longer period of time, your tutor should assess where you should pick up your training.
 

I am still employed by the same employer but have been deployed to work in different places. Do I have to complete a change of training details form?

If you are asked to work in different locations or departments, sometimes at short notice, in response to a COVID-19 outbreak, it’s important that you receive the right support and supervision, wherever you are working - and that your employer follows the recent joint guidance on pre-registration training.

You do not need to let us know about changes in your location unless you move to a different site for more than ten weeks, or if the change is permanent- that is, that you are not going to return to your previous training site.

You should only work in another pharmacy location which:

  • is part of the organisation or company which employs you as a pre-registration trainee
  • is directly linked to your training site
  • you have been redeployed to by your training organisation

If you are changing sites for more than ten weeks, or permanently, you should consider where you are in your training and if you need to bank the time you have already completed. You can find out more about banking your training in section 2.22 and 2.23 of the pre-registration manual.
 

I am on a multi sector training programme and I have not been able to move to a different sector as planned. How does this affect my training?

During a pandemic situation, we understand that you may not be able to keep to your original training plan depending on the priorities and ways of working within each sector you are due to visit.

If you can’t move to a different location as planned, you should work with your tutor to decide how you can progress your training. This could either be by remaining in your current placement, changing the order of your training plan or working remotely if you have the resources you need to work effectively in this way, including appropriate direct supervision.

Can I work from home?

If you want to work from home, you should talk to your employer. Their policy should follow government advice.

Having a temporary period of working from home will not directly affect your eligibility to sit the assessment or to register where all other criteria are met.
 

Can I do my training online or remotely?

Please discuss this with your training provider and tutor - there may be parts of your training that can be done online, for example a first aid course.

 

Can I work in a pharmacy being supervised by one of my relatives if this is more aligned to current government socialisation guidelines?

If the current outbreak intensifies and you are asked by your employer to work in a pharmacy which is supervised by a relative and which is part of the same organisation, you can do so. During this time, although your relative is supervising your work, they should not assess your training progress or be responsible for delivering any part of your training plan. They can’t be your tutor, and this can’t be a permanent move.

Unless your employer asks you to, you should not work in another pharmacy which is not part of the organisation or company which employs you as a pre-registration trainee, or is not directly linked to your training site, except as a volunteer or support staff.
 

What if I am not able to work with my tutor(s) for 28 hours a week over four days, or need to be supervised by a pharmacist who has been registered with less than three years?

If the current outbreak intensifies, you may be asked to work with and be supervised by different members of staff other than your designated tutor(s), sometimes at short notice, during the pandemic.

It’s important that you receive the right support when you are working, and that your employer follows the recent joint guidance on pre-registration training.

You do not need to let us know if you are not able to be supervised by your tutor(s) for up to ten weeks. This will not affect your eligibility to sit the assessment or to meet the registration requirements.
 

If I need to self-isolate, feel that my work environment poses too much risk or I need to take a break for my own wellbeing, can my employers make me come to work?

You should follow government guidelines on taking precautions against COVID-19, and talk to your tutor and your employer to manage your concerns.

You may also find it helpful to contact other organisations such as Pharmacist Support - the profession’s independent charity - who offer free and confidential support covering wellbeing. You can access a range of information and resources on their website. To speak with a member of their support team directly, call 0808 168 2233 or email info@pharmacistsupport.org.


Sitting the registration assessment

When will the next registration assessment be?

We are intending to hold the registration assessment on a date in the first quarter of 2021, while avoiding the first two working weeks of January.

We understand that many trainees would want the registration assessment to take place as early as possible, and to know the exact date, to help them prepare.

We have identified a preferred supplier and will now work with them to identify an exact date for the next registration assessment and the detailed arrangements for the sitting, including how and when to start the application process, adjustment arrangements and the assessment specification. We will keep you updated on our progress during October and November, and will give trainees and provisional registrants a minimum of two months’ notice of the date for the assessment.
 

Will the format of the registration assessment change and how?

The topics we will test in the registration assessment are set out in the current assessment framework. As the types of questions used in the assessment and the standard required to pass are not changing, you may also find the example questions and learning points from previous sittings available in section five of the pre-registration manual useful.

We are carefully considering the format of the online registration assessment and will provide further details on this in the coming months.
 

Why can’t you tell me exactly when the exam will be?

We are planning to deliver the assessment online for the first time.

Given the high stakes nature of the assessment, it is essential that conditions are met about its security, the technological capacity, the ability of candidates to prepare and access the assessment and any amendment of the format of the questions in the assessment.

We have now identified a preferred supplier and are committed to making this happen as quickly as possible, but we cannot confirm an exact date until the we have agreed a contract and project plan with the supplier.  We will give everyone at least two months’ notice of when it will be to give candidates a fair opportunity to prepare.
 

Why do I still need to do the registration assessment when I’ll have been working as a pharmacist for several months already?

It’s important to emphasise that you will only be joining the register on a provisional basis, until July 2021 at the latest.  You will need to sit and pass the registration assessment if you want to register as a pharmacist beyond July 2021. The registration assessment is still a vital part of assessing that you are able to practise as a pharmacist without the structured support and other requirements outlined in the policy.
 

I will exceed the eight-year time limit in November 2020. If I am unable to work, chose to take a break from training, or am unable to sit the registration assessment for the second or third time in 2020, will the GPhC criteria for registration be extended to accommodate this?

We will take in to account the situation of trainees who were due to sit the registration assessment in 2020, and the issue of the time limit to meet the registration criteria.

We will provide more information when we have an agreed plan to hold the registration assessment.
 

My visa is due to expire before I will be able to sit the registration assessment. What should I do?

You should raise this with your employer and the healthcare education organisation in your country:

The Home Office has announced that frontline workers with visas due to expire before 1 October 2020 will receive an automatic one-year extension.

The RPS and BPSA has confirmed with the Department of Health and Social Care that this extension will apply to provisionally registered pharmacists who are in employment which fulfils the requirements for a tier 2 visa. They are continuing discussions in relation to international trainees without employment in the period between the end of pre-registration training and the registration assessment. Please see the RPS website for more information.