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Petition protesting 'unsuitable' June pre-reg exam tops 900 signatures

The petition's author claims the exam questions were misleading and ambiguous
The petition's author claims the exam questions were misleading and ambiguous

A petition protesting the General Pharmaceutical Council's (GPhC) June pre-registration exam has garnered more than 900 signatures in two days.

The petition – launched on Wednesday (July 11) by a pre-reg trainee who wishes to remain anonymous – claims that pharmacy students are “being set up to fail” because of the repeatedly “unsuitable” assessments.

It also claims there was “great uproar” after the most recent assessment “due to the GPhC setting exam papers that were not suited for aspiring pharmacists”.

Speaking to C+D yesterday (July 12), the author – who sat the exam on June 28 – said: “It was more suited to pharmacists who had been working for many years and have [a lot] of experience behind them.”

Other issues reported include the exam not testing all areas of the GPhC’s registration assessment framework, with questions on “new, unexpected areas” instead, and it being “completely different” to the mock exams students sat in preparation, the petition claims.

“Some of the framework topics weren’t even assessed and there were barely any community [pharmacy] questions,” the author told C+D.

The wording of the questions was “ambiguous”, “misleading” and “confusing”, they added.

The author told C+D they were “taken aback” that more than 900 people have signed the petition already.

BPSA responds

The British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) – which collates feedback from students after each exam – stressed to C+D that the petition is not affiliated with the organisation and “it is more beneficial to get the opinion of [every] individual rather than using a template which only encompasses the opinion of its author”.

The deadline to submit feedback to the BPSA on the June assessment was Wednesday.

“If any of the points raised in the petition have also been sent through our official feedback channels, then this information will form part of our report and be provided to the GPhC,” the BPSA said.

The GPhC told C+D it had responded to the issues raised by the BPSA about last year's exam in a council report in September, and confirmed that it will be meeting the BPSA to discuss feedback on the June 2018 exam.

“Concerns not taken into account”

It is not the first time students have raised concerns around the exam. A petition triggered by the perceived difficulty of the September 2016 assessment garnered almost 700 signatures, with some students threatening to protest. The pass rate of the exam was the lowest in five years, at 41%.

Last year, a lack of time, desk space and adequate preparation topped complaints about June's pre-reg exam, according to the BPSA.

The latest petition's author told C+D: “It is actually quite shocking that this isn’t the only year [students] have felt the same. If [the GPhC] had really taken on the feedback [from previous year’s], this year’s paper would’ve been a lot different and the complaints wouldn’t have been the same.”

46 Comments
Question: 
Did you sit the June pre-reg exam?

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

What is interesting about the petition that was started (and now has over 1600 "signatures") is that it has been started anonymously, yet to "sign" it you have to give name, email & post code.

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

We need a vote of no confidence in the GPhC.

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Haven't I read that you are out of the profession? That would make your use of "we need a vote of no confidence in th GPhC" more than a little redundant.

Rads Al, Pre-reg Pharmacist

Reading some of these comments is shocking and clearly indicates at how misinformed some of the current pharmacists are! 

1. “Universities setting students up and duping them due to the inadequate courses etc” - no, universities are ACCREDITED BY THE GPhC every couple of years or so. The GPhC assesses the university and see if its course is of the required quality. If the universities are the issue, then the GPhC should not accredit them.
2. “Current students are sub-standard” - while a very small minority of students maybe substandard i can assure you the vast majority are hard working and competent. When +50%~ of the students do complain about an exam, there is clearly something wrong. I don’t blame you in saying that the students are moaning etc etc, but when the GPhC sets a framework that is inadequate or misleading how do you expect students to react? All The students can do is follow the so called “framework” - a framework that was almost non-existent in such exam
3. “The exam is there to filter out substandard students” - while this is true and no single pharmacy student will object to this, it is unfortunately in my opinion and the opinion of many others that this exam is clearly there to set students to fail. Many of the pharmacists here I can guarantee have not sat the pre reg exam (introduced in 1993 I believe), therefore may not understand how difficult it truly is (even if they have sat it, the bnf is almost triple in size as it was 10 years ago!) With all due respect to current pharmacists, but I genuinely believe that if currently qualified pharmacists were to sit the pre reg exam, they will not be able to pass it (first time at least). This is mainly because the exam does not reflect practice.

Finally it is sad to see some current pharmacists not backing their potential fellow professionals, mainly because of their own benefit and financial gains (more new pharmacists = less pay all round).

Paul Samuels, Community pharmacist

You've hit it on the head--"it does not reflect practice"Nevertheless there are too many schools of pharmacy ,producing too many pharmacists chasing too few jobs & opportunities.

This may now be recognised ,as you may be right ,it appears to set up a lot of pre-regs up to fail.

The GPhc does not appear to have done a suitable manpower survey in the time of its existence,to the best of my knowledge.

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

Rads Al - you've not joined the real world yet but this is one of lifes biggest lessons - most organisations are corrupt at the top - backhanders and dealings under the table are done to ensure both parties will win with the aim of making as many £££ as possible to the detrement of honest hard working people.

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

We live in an age where financial transactions are easily tracked, but without motivation, nobody is going to look into it. Like you, I suspect that there has been a massive amount under the table in the pharmacy world. Actually I don't just suspect it, I am certain this has taken place.

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Rads Al, I have worked with so many pharmacists. My biggest nightmares are those newly qualifieds, a month on the register and they saw fit to give me advice, one even called me old fashioned, not clinically trained, out dated etc ... and he made many more dispensing errors than me. The tone of your post, the unqualified assumed insult that 'currently qualified pharmacists' will fail the exam you sat, the mention that you are a ‘potential fellow professional’ left me with dread. Already, you are telling the GPhC how to conduct their affairs! ROTFLMAO

Keep it up, you'll go far.

BTW, I qualified in 1979, at that time only about 5% of school leavers ended up in universities, which is very different from today's undergraduate population - you get the point about being 'sub-standard'?

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

I think most pharmacists understand that the universities are now just out to make as much as money as possible. Which is why the onus should have fallen on the GPhC to do their job and regulate. They have failed to do so, which is why this has been allowed to happen.

The excuse from the GPhC is that they are only mandated to protect the public. But monitoring and controlling sub-standard pharmacy schools should have been within this remit seeing as it can prevent poor pharmacists from entering the profession.

But, again, they did nothing.

OR, maybe they allowed it to happen, knowing that they could just make the pre-reg exam almost impossible to pass.

We need massive change or the public will only be endangered further by poor pharmacy schools, massive workplace pressure, zero professional representation, and a complete lack of proper regulation.

Subjecting a few pharmacists every few months to reprimands for dispensing errors or petty theft is NOT the proper regulation we are paying for.

These people are being paid to do nothing.

R A, Community pharmacist

I sat my exam in 2011 so I have a fair understanding of the difficulty individual may have faced for this year, despite the structuring being slightly different in 2011.

In some respect, the entire pharmacy course within the UK has been dumbed down considerably. Undergraduates are no longer taught the science end of pharmacy like it used to 20 years ago. Instead, undergraduates are exposed to a quasi-healthcare training which enters the territory of medicine/nursing but not given the depth. On graduation, students have not developed any real competency like they did in the past.

The Master's qualification is another scam. Universities have extended the course to four years to make it similar to EU pharmacy degree. Unfortunately it does not carry the same academic weight like a standalone masters degree. 

To make it worse the number of pharmacy schools have proliferated without a real need for it. The justification is that "the cream will rise to the top". I really can't decide who is the bigger villain the universities or the multiples? 

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

I agree with your term ‘scam’. As a pharmacist  I do feel scammed, used and abused, ripped off etc etc by the RPSGB,  then the GPhC. All the fees I paid since 1979 - money well spent?

R A, Community pharmacist

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Chris Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Sadly I suspect that students are so used to exams and courses being dumbed down that when they do come across one that isn't they cry 'unfair'. The elite 10% or so used to attend university, now over 40% of young people attend university. Clearly some, if not many of these students taking the exam will be sub-standard.

Professional organisations shouldn't be dumbing down exams however, the professional standards and criteria needed should always be the same.

I suspect these students have been let down badly be their university, colleges and perhaps also unsupportive pre-registration tutors

david williams, Community pharmacist

Peter Sainsbury's, it is not acceptable to make personal comments on someone's smelling mistooks. Editor, why do you allow someone to ridicule another reader, who is trying to explain their arguements, whether well or otherwise? I disagree with many, some of my friends say most, but, everyone, including Peter, is entitled to their view, as long as it does not try to cause offence-I believe some of the comments did try to. Jonathen's posts may not be gramatically perfect, but his points are very valid.

Please, no more personal comments, or I shall stop reading

 

 

 

Arun Bains, Community pharmacist

I would encourage students to gain work experience in a wide variety of pharmacies to see what the job really entails. It isn’t how it’s described at university.

 

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

Also maybe go and speak to a few of the local pharmacists and see how many of them want out of the profession.

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

I can imagine the universities hating this. Imagine if someone did a video presentation of life working for boots at university open day. 99% of admissions would leave!

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

The other 1% didn't attend because they were hungover.

I was close to suicide working for one of the big multiples, despite having a lovely family, house and everything.

The bullying and harrassment really get to you after a while. 

john smith, Marketing

There is a pre-registration assessment framework designed and written by the GPhC which covers all the areas that would be assessed by them. How hard is it for the GPhC to stick to its own framework?! If a regulator designs a framework which it doesn't adhere to, it then means that the students who prepare for their exams on the basis of that framework are clearly being set up to fail.

I do hope this isn't a sadistic agenda by the GPhC to cull pharmacist numbers by deceiving students. 

My experience during my pre-reg year has left me despondent about pharmacy in general, especially community pharmacy. The current situation were it is alleged that the regulator seems to be setting up students to fail is leaving me even more despondent at the current state of the pharmacy profession.

 

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

John, the GPhC is not the culprit here, it is the universities who dupe students for their own financial gains. If someone falls for the sales pitch, what can I say ...... they would even admit unsuitable and substandard students and promise them the world, at least one university has been caught twice for cheating and passing students with low marks. The real question is how should we close poor performing universities?

Chris Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Surely the GPhC, the so-called professional regulator can warn universities consistently producing sub-standard students that their degree course would no longer be approved by them as a pre-requisite for the pre-registration year?

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

No schools of pharmacy have ever been closed down by the GPhC for poor performance or for anything else.

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

Nope. They won't touch the issue with a bargepole.

Not fit for purpose.

R A, Community pharmacist

I really feel sorry for the pre-regs, my simple reason is this after undertaking such a prohibitively expensive education with massive loans, failure would be catastrophic.  As it would be very difficult to retrain financially.

Recently I found out that as the pharmacy degree counts as a Master despite not having the same credit weight as a Masters students would not be able to get post grad loans from the government to study a post-graduate Master's degree which could help them out job wise. This leaves most pharmacy graduates stuck with pharmacy or accept a low pay work outside of pharmacy and hope things workout. 

I really think Universities should be forced to refund students for courses which fail to provide employment such as pharmacy. From 2010 it became clear that we had more pharmacists then needed and yet they kept on opening new pharmacy schools, at the end of the day if your customer is a teenager they lack the experience to make an informed choice. In such situation, universities have a moral obligation to provide facts black and white. I doubt they have so they should be punished for it. 

Chris Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Universities no longer have 'moral obligations'...they are now businesses competing in a market for revenue. Its actually in their interests to lower entrance requirements and course standards to enable more and more students to apply and graduate boosting their coffers.

It is no surprise that pre-reg exams are becoming 'more difficult' as the quality of students undertaking them are declining.

R A, Community pharmacist

Hi Chris,

I'm not disagreeing with what you are saying but just like Tobacco has explicit warnings concerning the risk associated with the use of cigarettes university courses should legally be required to provide long term employment statistics associated with courses that lead to a professional qualification in the field of healthcare. 

Instead, they make grossly misleading statements e.g.

"100% of our Pharmacy graduates from summer 2016 are in work or further study after graduating"

I took this statement from DMU, now most undergraduates will end up getting a pre-reg place simply because pharmacies can claim a grant for training pre-reg students. On the other hand following pre-registration, the statistic changes significantly. 

Now as a teenager or even laymen it would be hard to understand how skewered the above statistic is. As they would not understand the mechanics of pharmacy employment. Instead if they gave statistics for pre-reg and post pre-reg this would reflect the true nature of pharmacy employment.

Now if we treat universities as businesses then most businesses would be skewered alive for such conduct! Giving misleading information! Look at the uproar utility companies face for simply hiking the price fo gas/electricity in relation with inflation and cost related to maintaining such capital-intensive infrastructure?

Its beggars belief how Universities are getting away with scamming students in such dishonourable conduct! Especially individuals who may legally be classed as adults are in fact kids!   

Peter Sainsburys, Community pharmacist

A fantastic comment. How many of us actually know what is going on when we are 16/17 and forced to choose a degree? Universities should be pillars or honesty but instead just want as many students as possible to fill their coffers.

Scandalous that the GPhC cannot even be bothered to look at the matter. 

Maybe if all pharmacists refused to pay the GPhC fees they might take note. They obviously care about money so maybe this is the way to force them to stop just thinking about themselves.

Even the unfriendly letter they send you about your fees with a veiled threat at the bottom shows the level of respect they have for their registrants.

Duncan Rudkin should be utterly ashamed of his appalling behaviour. He has achieved nothing. But has been paid A LOT. 125k a year + salary increases + outrageous expenses.

"Patient-centered care" lol. How many of you naughty people have been offering non-patient centered care for your entire careers?

None.

Imagine if Tesco started touting "customer-focused business". What a sham.

I just ate my "food-centered" meal.

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

Count this as a blessing in disguise. Pharmacy students - you can still go into other professions while it is not too late! Unless daddy has a busy pharmacy expect poor working conditions and poor pay to match.

Bob Dunkley, Locum pharmacist

Could the low pass rate be seen as a Darwinian mechanismto stem the tide of unsuitable pharmacists from entering the profession? For pharmacists qualified a few years, we had courses with intellectual rigour, from O levels through A levels to    our finals. Standards are falling in these areas and it is being reflected in the low pass rates for the GPhC exam. Whilst it may be seen that I am taking an “Apres moi le deluge” - it was better in my day, it would seem there is a grain of truth in my attitude and today’s pharmacists are not up to snuff!!

Jonathan smith, Superintendent Pharmacist

i am so sick of hearing the pathetic moaning of substandard apathetic pharmacy students. the simple comment that you think a pharmacist qualified for many years should have a greater knowledge than a day 1 newly qualified pharmacist just show their complete lack of understanding. should an ill patient now be seeking out older pharmacist to dispense their prescriptions safely because newly qualifieds dont have the required knowledge to do their job safely? why would any student think a mock exam would be the same as the real GPHC exam? why does the framework even matter? Pharmacy students show know everything anyway. When you kill someone do these students think an acceptable defence will be that it wasnt in the GPHC framework so i didnt know the answer.

fact is that students that are incapable of become pharmacists are now being taken on by universites just to fill their student quota by dropping entrance grades as universities are simply a business and there are too many schools pharmacies.

the pre-reg exam IS fit for purpose when the correct students sit the exam.

moaning about the exam after the event by students who know they are not good enough to pass the exam shows a complete lack of proffesionalism and i for one do not want them to be a part of my proffesion!!!!!

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