The regulator is now in “the very final stages of the procurement exercise and expects to be able to give a further update to all candidates by next week”, General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) chair Nigel Clarke wrote to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) earlier this week (September 21).
“Once the supplier has been appointed, we will work with them at pace to identify when the registration assessment can be held,” Mr Clarke said.
Urgent clarification needed
The RPS and BPSA letter to the GPhC last week (September 18) was signed by RPS president Sandra Gidley and BPSA president Regan McCahill and urged the regulator to clarify when the 2020 registration assessment will take place.
The GPhC’s decision to postpone the assessment and the “lack of progress updates” is “causing considerable additional anxiety" for students taking the exam, Ms Gidley and Ms McCahill wrote in the letter.
Trainees are “feeling increasingly frustrated” by the delay, which in some cases has had the consequence of leaving them unemployed, Ms Gidley and Ms McCahill said. “Others have visas that will expire before the assessment takes place”, they added.
The two pharmacy bodies also invited the regulator to improve communications with trainees. “Regular communication is essential to allay their concerns and to make them feel engaged and valued,” Ms Gidley and Ms Cahill said.
In response, Mr Clarke said the GPhC had been regularly updating candidates, “whenever there have been updates to share”.
Trainees had been informed that they could expect a further update on the registration assessment by the end of September in communication from the GPhC at the end of August, Mr Clarke said.
“It is a very complex process to move the assessment online” and the GPhC is working to ensure the new platform works for all those taking the exam and that any impact “in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion” is mitigated, Mr Clarke added.
RPS CEO Paul Bennett welcomed the GPhC’s “rapid response” and said the RPS is “encouraged that they have taken our concerns onboard”.
The GPhC announced its decision to postpone the 2020 registration assessments on March 26. In May, it told C+D that the pandemic had accelerated existing plans to move to an online registration assessment.
More than 1,600 pre-registration trainees had applied to join the GPhC’s provisional register as of July 17. In order to remain on the register, provisionally registered pharmacists must sit and pass the registration assessment “at the first opportunity if they are fit to do so”.