26th February 2021
Throughout the pandemic, thousands of provisional pharmacists have been working tirelessly, supporting Pharmacy and wider healthcare teams, as we provide for our patients during this crisis. They have consistently demonstrated that they can work as competent and reliable professional members of our workforce in their support for patients in both hospital and GP practice, as well as in a community pharmacy setting.
Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists (GHP) members, both provisionally registered and qualified, have raised concerns about the potential lack of employer support for provisionally registered pharmacists should they be unsuccessful in the March sitting of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) assessment.
The GPhC guidance enabled all eligible to join the provisional register for a 12 month period from July 2020 until July 2021. Provisional registration was granted with the understanding that candidates would successfully sit the GPhC assessment during this time period. However, if provisional pharmacists are unsuccessful at the March sitting (the first opportunity to sit the assessment), those affected will be unable to resume working as provisional registrants. Instead, they must wait until the next opportunity to sit the assessment – this will be summer 2021. This may mean a delay for candidates of 2-3 months from the exam results to the next exam sitting.
In 2019, the last time the GPhC registration exam was undertaken, the pass rate was 72%. Despite their increased experience and obvious competence in practice, there is no guarantee that there will be an improvement in the pass rate for this cohort, given the additional pressures which provisional pharmacists have faced this year, as well as the overhanging threat of loss of income should they fail at this last hurdle.
We are asking all employers to extend their employment for provisionally registered pharmacists until they have an opportunity to re-sit the registration examination in summer 2021.
We understand that there is an option in place for candidates to declare themselves not ‘fit to sit’, but we believe it is only fair that all candidates should be supported should they choose to sit the March exam, given the length of time they have had to wait to sit it. We have reports that some hospital trusts in England have devised local agreements to extend the employment of all candidates who are unsuccessful in the March assessment to work as a Pre-Registration Pharmacist at AfC band 5 until they successfully re-sit their examination in summer 2021. This will provide employers with a viable way to extend employment without formal registration.
We believe that with the support of their employers and colleagues in the profession, provisional pharmacists, who have already shown the enormous value they offer to patients throughout the pandemic, will be able to join the professional register.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Callum Garner, Early Careers Pharmacist
Kay Fenwick, Chair of Education & Training, Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists
Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists