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GPhC exam chaos: Chair gives 'really big sorry' and affected trainees offered full refund

The GPhC has offered a full refund to registration exam candidates who faced delays in sitting their assessment yesterday, with the regulator's chair extending "a really big sorry" to those affected.

An unspecified number of registration exam candidates faced delays in sitting yesterday's (June 29) assessment – with some only able to begin their paper in the late afternoon, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) confirmed last night.

Speaking at today's Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies conference in Sutton Coldfield, GPhC chair Gisela Abbam offered a “really big sorry” to candidates who experienced the issues.

The GPhC is contacting those who were affected to “apologise for the disruption”, it said.

It will be offering those affected a full refund of the cost of the exam, it announced this afternoon.




While the “majority” of the 2,700 candidates who sat the exam faced no issues, candidates at five test centres in England were faced with IT or technical problems, meaning they were forced to start working on Paper 1 or Paper 2 later than expected, the regulator explained in a statement.

Candidates in a test centre in Nottingham, one of 113 BLT Group centres the exam was held at across the UK, were particularly badly affected, being unable to start working on Paper 1 until late in the afternoon, the regulator said.

C+D has asked the GPhC to clarify how many candidates were impacted by these issues.


“Completely unacceptable”


GPhC CEO Duncan Rudkin acknowledged that the issues experienced by the affected candidates are “completely unacceptable”.

“We fully appreciate the significant stress and disruption this must have caused for them in such a high-stakes assessment,” he added in a statement last night.

Candidates who sat the exam in the Nottingham test centre will be able to appeal if they fail the exam based on the “severe delays” they experienced, and if they fail, this will not count as one of their three attempts to pass, Mr Rudkin said.

“We are considering what else we can do to support the affected candidates,” he added.


Exam provider to carry out investigation


Sonya Whitworth, managing director of BTL, also apologised for the delays, pointing out that the company had been working with the test centres to resolve the issues throughout the day.

“We will be carrying out a full investigation with our test centre providers and will ensure that mitigations are put in place to prevent this happening again,” she added.   

In January, the GPhC selected the BTL Group – a global provider of assessment technology services – to run its registration assessment for the next three years.

Yesterday’s sitting was the first overseen by the new provider.


Sitting the exam until 11pm


Pharmacists, training providers, and students took to Twitter to voice their concerns about the delays.

One user suggested they had heard some trainees were expected to finish their exam as late as 8pm last night.



Meanwhile, a trainee claimed they left the test centre in Nottingham at 11pm last night, while another claimed they only finished at 10.30pm.



C+D has asked the GPhC to confirm whether some candidates did indeed finish the exam this late.

Meanwhile Emma Boxer, senior lecturer at the University of Sunderland, tweeted that it is not the first time that candidates have found themselves in these situations.

Last year, some exam candidates flagged issues with Pearson Vue, the former provider of the online assessment.

Some experienced issues with the company’s booking system ahead of the March 2021 sittings, while four candidates were not able to complete the exam in July due to a “system failure”.


Suggestions for the GPhC 


Some twitter users and the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp) asked the GPhC whether the candidates who experienced issues yesterday could be added on a temporary register. 

AIMp also suggested that the GPhC could pass those trainees, and asked the regulator “to give us their commitment that this awful and stressful scenario for students does not happen again.”

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