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'GPhC treatment of my student cohort has been despicable'

"My final chance at becoming a pharmacist could be over, just like that"

The GPhC handling of the pre-registration exam this year has been unfair, unsafe and careless, says Imani Asi

I would like to highlight the concerns that many in my cohort have with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)s handling of this years exam, whose attempts at support have alienated each of us every day the exam has edged closer.

The way in which my cohort has been treated has been despicable. Ridiculously, those who had failed the pre-registration exam before the COVID-19 pandemic were not allowed to register as provisional pharmacists, despite having shown some level of competence in comparison with those who had never sat an exam.

Many like myself worked throughout the past year on the frontline of pharmacy on minimum wage as dispensers who were treated like an extra pharmacist – albeit one who could not check prescriptions – able to provide advice and help with other services. This is not to detract from those prov-regs who have also struggled with being overworked with a lack of support.

The GPhC says it acts to uphold public confidence”. How confident are they in those prov-regs that have never been examined? How confident will the public be to know that they might have been looked after by a prov-reg who could fail the exam and no longer practise until the next sitting? The regulator's responses and actions are contradictory.

The rollout of information and resources was far too late. We only received sample questions mere weeks before the exam was scheduled to take place. There was an unfair system of applying to sit the exam, as those who didn't receive the email early in the day missed out on a place at a test centre in their hometown. This is not to mention those overseas students who have suffered due to the poor handling of this exam.

There was no email to give us a clear guide as to how the application of slots were being allocated. Now, many like myself will have to travel further, when anxiety is at an all-time high because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us don't feel comfortable being in another city and having to book hotels.

You would think that, this being a clinical pharmacy exam, there would be more of an indication of how we are able to keep safe in the testing centre. The GPhC claims the test centres are COVID-secure”, despite not requiring candidates to test negative for the virus before entering, when many cases are known to be asymptomatic.

It feels like the entire responsibility of ensuring we are safe to sit the papers has been placed on students by the GPhC. What if we are sat in a room with someone who may not know they have COVID-19 and then we catch it? I live with highly vulnerable parents, should I not be concerned with returning home after being surrounded by students from different households?

There were numerous other ways the GPhC could have assessed us over the past year, such as being accounted for by our previous tutors or having online long-term assessments completed at home. Every pharmacist I speak to does not see how sitting two papers consecutively accurately assures that that student will be a competent pharmacist.

Those of us who are on our third exam attempt have contributed to the frontline of healthcare during a pandemic. But should we fail this time, the GPhC has not answered the question of whether it would consider giving us another shot at passing. It has been so long since our second attempt and the new exam is in an entirely different format. How much pressure do you think that puts on an individual?

My final chance at becoming what I have spent years working on could be over, just like that, with no compassion or sense of reasoning. The GPhC has let us down. It does not seem to care for the individual students and should not be run by the people who are in charge.

Read the apology from GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin for the issues with the exam 

Imani Asi is a pre-registration student based in North West England

In response to this blog, the GPhC pointed out how it asks students in its exam guidance not to attend the test centre if they have tested positive for COVID-19 in the previous 10 days

A version of this letter has been sent to the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care


A England, Manager

This could well be a blessing for you to steer away from pharmacy. The best thing you could do for yourself right now is to find alternative avenue(s) to build a fulfilling life. If you are at the age I am guessing, you have plenty of time and you can potentially earn a hell of a lot more.
The GPhC's role on paper is to regulate every aspect of the profession. Over the years I have come to understand that they seem to be operating as a sidekick of something else, something that does not have the people's interest at its heart.
I have also come across people cheating their way into pharmacy, so no person should be allowed to practice as a pharmacist without thorough training and stringent examination of every aspect of pharmacy, as per the pre-registration training.

Roy Sinclair, Community pharmacist

The current pre-reg and prov. Pharmacists will in the future be those responsible for our profession. I am now retired but as a pre-reg Tutor was responsible for many pre-regs. One of many criteria for me was, if I was in a situation requiring a pharmacist, would I be happy to see that pre-reg on the other side of the counter or bed. I am happy to say that I have met that situation many times since and have felt relieved to see an older but familiar face.Those who may remember Agenda for Change will recall that the required skill set for pre-regs came out significantly higher than many basic grade pharmacists. They are required to practice as pharmacists while studying for what is essentially a difficult academic exam. My perspective at the moment is that they are being very poorly served by the GPhC. who appear to be doing very little to positively support pre-regs and provide a suitable mechanism to allow them to sit the exam. The curent climate for Pharmacy is not very bright with the pressure of Covid requirements in the Community and threatened closures and all the extra pressures in Hospital.

The approach to overseas Pharmacy Graduates seems equally unhelpful yet again, we will rely on these individuals to fill vacant posts and again, many will go on to greater Pharmaceutical success. 

The GPhC should be looking at innovative ways  to help prospective pharmacists to sit the exam they require them to pass in these difficult times. They have had almost a year to find an acceptable solution but seem to only be looking at options at a very late stage. From this distance what is on offer looks unfair and unhelpful and would certainly not encourage anyone to consider Pharmacy as a career. 

Pharmacy is currently taking quite a battering and this fiasco over the exam is only ading to that.


Adam Spencer, Community pharmacist

Uclan university had 50% of their graduates pass the Pre-reg exam in 2018-2019. What does the writer of this letter expect to happen,for the gphc to say oh go on guys you don't need to sit the exam even though it is our only way of auditing the quality of pharmacists coming through the door.I appreciate were in a pandemic but quit the moaning revise hard and I'm sure you will pass the exam.




Edward H Rowan, Locum pharmacist

Exactly. The public do not want un-examined pre regs to be let loose on them.


Hasnan Iqbal, Pharmacy Asistant/ Medicine Counter Assistant

Problem is,  most of  the time  the Gphc  think that G stands for God . It doesn't. Their job is to process the legal framework and  guidelines that are there  , And in times of a national crisis the Gphc should  use their own  COMMON SENSE if it's an emergency  for a fair reason  . 
But  too many times they have the God syndrome , or they over react for the protection of their own job as a regulator , they have a vested interest in keeping  / protecting their own job role  , so how can they say they are fairly regulating others ! 
They're going in for the overkill as usual and now they had another massive  backlash over exams ,  Only now they've  realised that they've put their own job roles as a regulator at risk , so  they're  ( God is ) sorry !  The gphc need to be held accountable ( just like when we are , but sorry doesn't do  )  if they mess their job up . 

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