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Which registration exam protest demands has the GPhC granted?

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has ultimately decided to grant two of the four main asks put forward by a delegation of pharmacist trainees who protested over June’s chaotic registration assessment.

Following widespread discontent over problems candidates faced when sitting the exam, protesters visited the GPhC’s offices in Canary Wharf earlier this month (July 14) with a raft of requests including:


  1. “For any trainee who fails the June 29 sitting, the sitting should not count towards their total number of failed attempts.

  2. “Issues raised by trainees other than ‘severe delays’ which affected their performance should be accepted as grounds of appeal if the results of the investigations confirm these issues.

  3. “Trainees should only repeat the specific paper they failed for the June exam.

  4. "There should be an extension of the eight-year limit on passing the assessment for candidates who may go over it if they have to resit."


Protesters had good news last week (July 20), when the GPhC agreed to a 12-month extension on the time limit to sit and pass the registration exam after beginning pharmacist training “for all candidates who experienced [exam] delays or disruption”. 

The GPhC clarified it would grant this extension “where there are legitimate, documented grounds for doing so”, such as when candidates “have had to take a break due to illness or caring responsibilities”, in a letter sent on Tuesday (July 26) to four delegates who led the protest.

Read more: GPhC grants one registration exam protest demand, is considering others

It also made clear that candidates who experienced serious exam issues other than delays would be eligible for provisional registration.

The GPhC confirmed earlier this month (July 8) that provisional registration would be granted to candidates who had experienced "procedural issues" including delays to starting their papers.

But in addition, those who experienced “major disruption or significant technical issues”, such as “screens repeatedly freezing or glitching […] can appeal on the basis that they experienced a procedural error”, it clarified.


Rejected demands


However, the regulator rejected protesters’ request that any trainee who fails the June sitting should only have to repeat the specific paper they did not pass.

“Each registration assessment is designed to be sat as a whole” on the same day, as part one and part two of the exam are “developed concurrently”, it reasoned.

As such, candidates must “reach the passing score set for each part of the assessment in the same sitting” to pass the exam, it decided.

The GPhC also stopped short of granting an extra sitting to all trainees who fail the June sitting, as not everyone experienced issues on the day, it said.

Read more: IT issues, cheating and uninformed invigilators: pharmacist trainees detail GPhC exam chaos

However, it reiterated that the June 2022 sitting will not count as one of candidates’ three attempts to pass the exam if they waited more than 30 minutes to sit the assessment or if they successfully appeal their results on the grounds of disruption or technical issues.

Granting the extra sitting to candidates “who didn’t have a fair opportunity to sit” the exam due to “severe delays or other major disruption” was the “fairest approach”, the regulator wrote.

Candidates can appeal their results – which will be announced tomorrow (July 29) – on the basis of procedural error if they experienced issues. This will result in provisional registration if the appeal if upheld, the GPhC noted.

It comes after some candidates faced delays in starting their exam, while others have complained of technical issues at test centres and claimed that some candidates cheated.


“Ideal” if all requests had been granted


A GPhC spokesperson told C+D that it would “continue to keep in touch” with Marvin Munzu, the protest’s organiser.

“[We] really appreciate the time he has taken to talk to us and the work he has done to help candidates,” the spokesperson said.

Mr Munzu told C+D that trainees’ goal in visiting the regulator’s offices and protesting peacefully outside them was to get “the GPhC to listen to [them] and to take some action”.

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

“We were not naïve [enough] to expect all our requests to be granted,” he told C+D, “but we hoped for them to listen and grant at least a few.”

Although “the ideal situation would have been to have all our requests granted”, Mr Munzu and other delegates remained “deeply appreciative and grateful that [they] were listened to”, he said.

“All we can do now is wait for the results on Friday and hope for the best for all trainees,” Mr Munzu stated.


External consultants to review exam provider


Further to reviewing pharmacist trainees’ requests, the GPhC told C+D it had decided to engage “external consultants” to review its contract with its exam centre provider, the BTL group.

Read more: The GPhC exam protest as it happened

The review aims to “determine what went wrong” with the registration exam process and how it can be improved, the spokesperson said. It will be overseen by the GPhC’s new council committee on quality and performance assurance.

The GPhC is also “urgently” exploring how to avoid “candidates experiencing any significant issues at the November sitting as far as possible”.


Council to meet following listening event


The regulator also invited candidates to describe their exam experiences to council members and chief executive Duncan Rudkin at an online listening event, which took place on Tuesday evening.

The GPhC council is due to meet and reflect what they heard from trainees at the event, Mr Rudkin told C+D.

Candidates delivered “extremely powerful and moving accounts”, he said.

Read more: 'People’s lives have been affected': Trainees on the impact of GPhC exam chaos

“We are sorry these dedicated individuals […] encountered such unacceptable problems when taking their registration assessment,” he told C+D.

The GPhC plans to use trainees’ accounts and feedback “to continue to build [its] understanding of what went wrong, and what actions are required to prevent this happening again”.


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