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June registration pass rate lowest in six years

91% of hospital trainees passed this June's exam first time, compared to 71% of community trainees

Only 74% of pre-registration candidates passed this year's first sitting exam, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has revealed

The pass rates for June's registration exam was the lowest since the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) became responsible for the assessment in 2010, the regulator has revealed.

Of the 2,811 students who sat the exam this year, 74% passed - compared with 85% in June 2014 - the GPhC announced last week (July 24).

The second lowest pass rate for the June sitting recorded by the GPhC was 78% in 2013, when the regulator introduced its new-look exam.

The June exam usually has a higher pass rate than the September sitting, which usually has a higher proportion of candidates sitting it for the third time.

The GPhC also revealed wide discrepancies in pass rates between candidates from different sectors who took the exam for the first time in June this year. While 91% of the 675 hospital candidates passed, this figure was just 71% for the 1,944 community pharmacy candidates.

In response to a C+D query about the reason for the low pass rate, the GPhC said its board of assessors had "benchmarked the assessment against previous years to make sure that outcomes are fair and consistent". It would present an analysis of the exam results to the board in September, it told C+D today (July 27).

The British Pharmaceutical Students' Association (BPSA) presented a list of recommended changes to the registration exam to the GPhC earlier this month (July 13), following feedback from BPSA members. These included removing the use of double negatives from the exam and ensuring a balance of questions from all areas of the syllabus.

The regulator also told C+D it would "shortly" be publishing a response to the recommendations.

In November, the GPhC revealed it was investigating why only 61% of students passed the September 2014 exam.

 


What could the GPhC do to improve registration exam pass rates?

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31 Comments

geoffrey gardener, Community pharmacist

No comment needed, the figures speak for themselves, one in four fail! I've never been a fan of these exams, surely if there are problems with the suitability of candidates, they should be weeded out during the four years at "university". Still with tuition fees of 10k a year I cannot see many universities showing under performing students the back door!!

Marc Borson, Community pharmacist

These results do not necessarilty reflect the quality of students. They reflect the quality of the courses being offered. It show that the students mayn't be fully prepared for the new reality of pharmacy. student need to be taught supervising a dispensary, leadership, mentoring and human resource management, quality management including, regulatory compliance, health care informatics (databases), comprehensive marketing skills, business administration. Let move away from the consensus that has allowed pharmacy to change with out the syllabus changing. By the end of year two under grads should be 80% ready to undertake the role of RP. From my experience as a pre-reg tutor under grads have usually achieved very strong A levels, a lot more than we needed in my day, but are less competent than dispensers and technicians who have undertaken NVQs for 2 years. Why is this? It is not right. students are being exploited by university courses that imply they are training them for a relevant carer in the pharmaceutical sector. In reality they are poorly prepared for the reality and also unable to make career choices that will allow them to develop in to a real professional with experience and skill. How many students really understand what an RPS faculty is and means?

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

RPS Faculty is a complex realm which as I have stated for many years lacks a robust infrastructure to support candidates from the rank and file to attain its various grades,

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

Funny to see a debate about the merits of an examination for which passing for the most part ultimately leads nowhere. Pharmacy has changed,and to refer to it as profession anymore is a little fanciful. But the change has been brought about by the likes of Boots who actually want to deskill the workforce and minimize wages. With their agents/allies in the government, pharmacy schools etc.... they have destroyed community pharmacy from the inside out flooding the market with lemmings who have no idea what purgatory awaits them after graduation. This is their dream and they have been working on it for many years despite their fake smiles and comforting words about 'services'. Mind how you go now.....

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

OMG it only gets worse.....if I stagger over the finishing line to 60 in about 6 years...I'll put my feet up. Pharmacy is not what it was to be honest a real shame. :-)

M Yang, Community pharmacist

The content of the pre reg exam needs to become more relevant to modern day to day practice. We're talking about training h/c professionals and if the pass rate becomes lower, then so be it. I really enjoy reading the discussions that're taking place in this particular thread, they're reasonable and civilised without reaking too much of the usual cynicism and mudslinging we too often see on C & D. As horrible as this may sound, a 10% drop in the pass rate is actually beneficial in preserving the wellbeing of the profession (in terms of the balance of supply and demand). However, more needs to be done. At the pre reg recruitment level, we need to reduce the number of places to promote quality of candidates and at the university level a student cap must be implemented.

Retiring Locum, Locum pharmacist

The GPhC should be more proactive in ensuring that pre-registration training in community pharmacy is of a suitable standard. Perhaps preregistration tutors themselves should be rigorously assessed before taking up that role. There should be regular contact from the GPhC to ensure that training is being delivered in a structured and relevant manner. Also, there should be harsh sanctions for any pharmacy owner who takes on a preregistration student as just an extra pair of hands.

John Randell, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

pre-reg training in community is poor because alot of pharmacists are no longer incentivised to train pre-regs.... Pre-regs in community are seen as an extra pair of hands and thats it...... IF YOU ARE A PRE-REG IN COMMUNITY FOCUS ON PASSING THE EXAM....DOING THOSE EXTRA SHIFTS TO IMPRESS THE MULTIPLES WILL NOT HELP YOU.....

Graham Phillips, Superintendent Pharmacist

The BPSA is a key organisation for pharmacy students and thus for the future of our profession. In fact, since the demise of the old RPSGB it has gone from strength to strength. Why you should be shocked I have no idea,

Graham Phillips, Superintendent Pharmacist

The BPSA is a key organisation for pharmacy students and thus for the future of our profession. In fact, since the demise of the old RPSGB it has gone from strength to strength. Why you should be shocked I have no idea,

Chris ., Community pharmacist

They have just had some very strange practices in the past and not necessarily kept within their regulations.

James Mac, Community pharmacist

Don't be downhearted non-passers. You'll get it next time. It's just like the driving test.

Anonymous Anonymous, Information Technology

Did you go to Hollywood Upstairs Medical College too???!

Altaf Vaiya,

A survey was carried out after the exam, over 900 students completed the survey in total, it is worth reading and understanding student views from the survey analysis report available at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/m9tnltrxwue4z1i/Registration%20Assessment%20Su... Similar views were echoed in the BPSA feedback: http://bpsa.co.uk/downloads/BPSA_report_of_June_2015_registration_assess... As a pre-reg tutor and mentor I feel that GPhC should give more support to students and tutors on how they will be assessed in the exam, what is expected from them, as well as a more detailed pre-registration assessment syllabus. The open book component of this exam, as suggested from the feedback, the context of the exam questions including the length of the question and time allocated to read, digest and answer the question was not sufficient. The questions that arise from the results are 'If hospital pre-registration students performed better in the exam, does that mean they were better prepared?' OR 'Was the style and type of questions asked better suited to hospital pre-registration candidates?'

Baguiasri Mandane, Dispensing assistant

I agree with the above - the points highlighted in the survey report are certainly the voice of the graduate Scientists aiming to pass the registration assessment to be able to register as Pharmacists. A thorough consideration certainly needs to be given to it - the voice of the future professionals is important and certainly carries a lot of weight in the future of the profession overall.

Caroline Jones, Community pharmacist

Pharmacists in all sectors should have the same knowledge, maybe it's the quality of students and/quality of training in community that is the problem?

Anonymous Anonymous, Information Technology

If this is the GPhC's response (and I hope it is!) to uncapped numbers of students entering pharmacy at university then I shall salute them for taking this stance! Perhaps making the registration exam harder shall be the only way of controlling the number of students and finally protecting ourselves from the wanton devaluation of our profession!

kalpesh patel, Superintendent Pharmacist

That is a ridiculous idea! What do you say to the bright students that hot through 4 years of gruelling exams only' to be tripped up by examiners to 'restrict numbers'? The problem should be addressed at entry NOT EXIT MR ANONYMOUS!

Leanne Coyne, Dispensing assistant

Hello anonymous (I realise that doesn't make sense but you didn't leave a name). I hope that your message was sarcastic, as otherwise I think that your comments are quite shocking. Students are now paying around £36,000 in fees alone (not including any living expenses or books) to sit the MPharm, so controlling numbers after five years of hard work and a lot of expense is definitely the wrong way to do it! It would make much more sense to reduce the number of places on the MPharm, then prospective students at least have a chance to do something else instead.

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

What is the difference if deluded students pass and enter the job market to be used as robots by multiples(if they're lucky to find a job). Better to fail(one step back) and start an alternative career( two steps forward) with a better future.

Anonymous Anonymous, Information Technology

Hear hear!

Leanne Coyne, Dispensing assistant

PS: I'm not actually a dispensing assistant anymore, for clarity, having just qualified as a pharmacist,

Anonymous Anonymous, Information Technology

You poor thing... My post was not sarcastic as you wrongly presumed. I feel that it is with the utmost regret that this stance should be one that we take, however, I also feel that we must protect this profession and unfortunately a lot of students that have qualified in the past few years are clearly not up to scratch! We must not allow ourselves to erode the competence of our profession simply because someone has rather foolishly expended £36k on an inferior education!

Leanne Coyne, Dispensing assistant

I completely and utterly agree that standards need to be maintained - for the benefit of patients this has to happen. However, my issue with your original comment was that it implied that the exam should be made tougher to cut down numbers, rather than simply being a tool to assess the competence of prospective pharmacists. If the pass rate is low due to poor quality pre-regs, so be it. However, if the complexity of questions in the pre-reg exam were to be raised compared with previous years simply to thin out the numbers (which I'm not suggesting it has), this would be unacceptable.

Anonymous Anonymous, Information Technology

No but you miss the point... Large numbers of pharmacists breeds an environment for poor standards... I shall give you an example: In a world with an infinite supply of pharmacists whom shall work for £12 an hour? Will it be the gifted, top of their class, studious pharmacist? Or will it be the bottom of the rung, inexperienced, lazy pharmacist? The fact is that low wages will encourage anybody with a brain to leave pharmacy altogether and thus we shall only be left with the newly qualified, the stupid and the unadventurous. You, as a newly qualified, owe it to yourself to ensure that a limit is applied to the number of registered pharmacists or else you can wave goodbye to your £36k! Once you've been in the profession a while you'll soon understand...

Leanne Coyne, Dispensing assistant

I think you have overestimated my earnings since I have chosen to work in the NHS! I am very passionate about what I do and about the welfare of patients, and I know plenty of others who are the same. I understand what you are saying, and I wouldn't want there to be an abundance of terrible pharmacists, but I don't believe the situation is as grave as you paint it. And either way, my only point was that the pre-registration exam should be designed to assess whether someone is a safe, competent pharmacist, and that is all. If there is an over supply of pharmacists, this issue would be better addressed at a different stage (i.e. in capping student numbers).

Anonymous Anonymous, Information Technology

P.S I can tell you from personal experience standards have slipped in the last few years... I'd be concerned whether some newly qualifieds could tie their own shoelaces without getting into some sort of bother!

Anonymous Anonymous, Information Technology

Yes but again you miss the point - there will NEVER be a cap on student numbers! This is to ensure a steady stream of cheap pharmacists that enables the government to skim the dispensing fee per item - thus setting us up for remote supervision. They justify this by stating that pharmacy is and always has been a science degree (despite the fact that over 90% of pharmacists work for the NHS in some capacity)! I admire your humanitarian spirit, however, the government thinks it has us over a barrel and we mustn't allow ourselves to be undermined any further!

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

Maybe they're suffering because suddenly GPhC have realised there are too many Schools of pharmacy. Boots won't be happy. They need the manpower you know.

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

If you ask questions on initiation of Insulin, of course you will have very high failures from Community sector.

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