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GPhC exam booking ‘chaos’: BPSA demands clarity after slots ‘glitch’

Pharmacy students are urging the GPhC to clarify whether candidates who had booked their registration exam slot in the afternoon will still be able to sit the exam in March.

Pre and provisionally registered pharmacists looking to sit the March registration exam were invited by email last week (February 25) to book their assessment slot with Pearson VUE.

Some candidates reported the booking process as “chaotic”, with some saying they could not secure a slot at a test centre near to them.

The British Pharmaceutical Students' Association (BPSA), the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) reported that “varying assessment time slots” were available for candidates to book, with some trainees telling the RPS of “start times for their assessment ranging from 8am to 3pm”.

“Urgent clarification needs to be provided regarding the varying assessment time slots, as well as assurance to candidates who have booked slots that should not have been available and those who are awaiting to book, that they will still be able to sit the registration assessment in March without any further delay,” the BPSA said in a statement on Saturday (February 27).

Error identified

A General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) spokesperson told C+D today (March 1) that the regulator has “identified a technical error with some candidates booking afternoon slots”.

“We have escalated this to Pearson VUE [and] we are working together to resolve any issues candidates may have experienced when booking their place for the registration assessment,” they added.

An email to a candidate that appears to have been sent by the GPhC last week, which was shared on social media, says that “there should be no afternoon availabilities as the assessment is morning only”.

C+D has approached Pearson VUE for comment.

Book exam slot in June

An anonymous prov-reg pharmacist based in London, who had booked an afternoon slot to sit the exam in March, told C+D today that Pearson VUE is advising candidates in a similar position to theirs to “refresh the slots again and again to find a test”.

“But there are none available – not one in the Midlands/south of England, it seems,” the prov-reg claimed.

The GPhC is advising those who have not been able to book a slot for March to “try the June assessment and that they will issue a refund for the March exam”, they told C+D.

C+D has approached the GPhC with these claims, but didn’t hear back from the regulator on this before this story was published.

“We are extremely stressed and frustrated since the exam is in two weeks and we are not sure if we can sit it or not. Additionally, we have to spend an hour or so a day trying to find a non-existing slot instead of revising,” the prov-reg added.

BPSA support fund

Some students will need to travel “longer distances than they may wish to” to sit the GPhC exam on March 17-18, the regulator said in response to concerns that some candidates face journeys of more than 100 miles.

While the GPhC said last week that sitting the assessment is deemed “an essential activity”, which means candidates will not be in breach of lockdown restrictions, some candidates expressed worry that they might be “risking [their] health and others” by taking public transport.

To better support those who will need to travel to distant Pearson VUE centres, the BPSA launched a support fund yesterday (February 28), to help these candidates with travel and accommodation costs.

“Any funds that are not used for the March 2021 sitting will be used for the summer assessment as we can see this being an ongoing issue. If there are funds remaining after the summer assessment, these will be donated to Pharmacist Support,” the BPSA added.

At the time of publishing, the BPSA fund had collected £1,370.

The GPhC told C+D last week that “the vast majority of candidates across England, Scotland and Wales have been able to book a test centre, with 2,705 having successfully registered their places so far”.

Remote sitters and overseas candidates still in limbo

Meanwhile, some overseas candidates have claimed that they are still “anxiously waiting” for confirmation of their booking to sit the exam remotely.

Last month, candidates residing in countries with a time difference to the UK of two hours or more were told they will now be able to sit the March assessment remotely at home, after initially being told their exam would be cancelled partly due to the risk of the questions being shared among candidates sitting in different time zones.

Overseas students were expecting to have confirmation that they could sit the exam remotely last week, one candidate claimed, but have now been told it will be this week – two weeks before the March 17-18 exam.

Another Twitter user shared a GPhC update last week, through which they were told to expect an update tomorrow (March 2).

The regulator announced in March last year that it had decided to postpone the 2020 registration assessment due to COVID-19. In May, it told C+D that the pandemic had accelerated existing plans to move to an online registration assessment.

Will you sit the GPhC registration exam in March?

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