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Pharmacist tutor: Why I’m proposing trainees protest over the GPhC exam

A pharmacist tutor who helped more than 400 trainees prepare for the June registration assessment tells C+D why he is organising a protest over the regulator’s handling of the exam 

Marvin Munzu is co-founder of Pre Reg Shortcuts, an online trainee pharmacist platform which has been helping students prepare for the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) exam for more than five years.

This year, the company assisted more than 400 trainees with preparations for the assessment.

“Training and supporting these trainees is my passion, and I devote hundreds of hours each year to support them,” Mr Munzu tells C+D.

But since the June 29 sitting, his inbox has been “inundated with hundreds of messages from trainees expressing their disappointment and cries for help”, he says.

Having trained the latest cohort from October 2021 until the exam week, “[we] have created an enormous rapport with them, hence the reason why we empathise and support them during these difficult times”, Mr Munzu reveals.

 

The idea for the protest

 

An individual signing under the name of “Pharmacists United” created a petition on change.org last week (July 1), calling for the GPhC to take action following complaints voiced on social media by students who were severely affected by “technical issues” on June 29, when they sat the registration assessment.

As of today (July 5), more than 1,400 people have signed the petition.

Mr Munzu – who did not launch the petition himself – tells C+D that he was part of discussions with his student group yesterday morning, where they decided that a protest outside the GPhC’s headquarters in Canary Wharf, east London, would be the next step forward.

Mr Munzu is currently in the process of informing the Met Police of the group’s intentions.

 

“Fair treatment for all”

 

In previous statements, the GPhC suggested that the “majority” of the 2,700 candidates who sat the exam faced no issues, but admitted the exam experience wasn’t flawless for students at five different centres, including one in Nottingham, where trainees reportedly faced the most significant issues.

A GPhC spokesperson told C+D that it estimates around 240 candidates were affected by delays at the different exam sites.

However, Mr Munzu believes that number could be higher.

“We have a Telegram community of over 800 trainees and a WhatsApp group of over 200. The majority have been severely impacted by the issues. They were all at different centres, including Nottingham, and the majority have expressed very deep concerns, frustrations – including suicidal thoughts,” he says.

The GPhC has promised to grant provisional registration to those who were “severely” impacted by the IT and technical issues, although provisional registration status will only be granted to trainees who meet a certain set of criteria – which are yet to be defined.

But Mr Munzu hopes the protest will highlight the need for “fair treatment for all”.

“All trainees have been affected… and all need to be treated fairly and the same,” he adds.

The GPhC tells C+D that it “respects people’s rights to peacefully protest and express their views”.

 

Which issues did trainees flag?

 

Speaking on behalf of the many students who have contacted Mr Munzu, he says trainees are “disgusted” by the GPhC’s indication that “severe delays” were the only issue experienced by some.

“They are disappointed the GPhC is failing to recognise several other issues which also occurred in different centres despite starting on time,” he adds.

The allegations reported to Mr Munzu include:

 

  • some candidates with the delayed exam start time were able to use their phones and get insights from other centres on the questions

  • some centres had loud, distracting noises and some trainees were offered ear plugs

  • some trainees in some centres were able to look at the screens of other trainees during the exam

  • the invigilators were not competent in certain centres allowing calculators in Paper 2 which are not allowed. Also, there weren't any checks done to ensure that students' calculators were the permitted models

  • Nottingham trainees complained of the exam conditions, such as having to sit for long hours in a tight room, with no air, no food and not allowed to use toilet facilities. Some ended up writing the exam while it was dark and struggled with visibility issues.

 

The GPhC has been approached for comment.

 

Previous issues

 

The regulator decided to hold the registration assessment online for the first time last year, when former provider Pearson Vue was appointed to deliver it.

A “system failure” left four trainees unable to complete the assessment in July, a number that now seems almost insignificant when compared with the amount of candidates affected by the issues this time around.

Mr Munzu stresses that the GPhC needs to acknowledge there were more, multifaceted issues than the “severe delays” it has admitted to.

“Once [it does] this, then [it] must treat all trainees fairly and equal and implement the same solution for all,” he says.

A GPhC spokesperson told C+D today that the regulator wants to “hear the views of candidates who sat the last registration assessment” and has emailed all candidates the link to a survey, which they can use to share their feedback.

 

Whatever you are going through, you don’t have to face it alone. Call Samaritans for free on 116 123, email [email protected] or visit www.samaritans.org for more information.

You can also contact Pharmacist Support, the profession’s independent charity, between 9-5pm Monday to Friday if you’re struggling with mental health and need non-urgent wellbeing support. Call 0808 168 2233 or email [email protected]

 

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