GPhC say assessment is an ‘essential step’ towards registration

 

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has responded to questions from candidates and stakeholders on the registration assessment, following the introduction of national lockdowns.

 

The GPhC has reiterated the importance of the registration assessment and reaffirmed their resolve to continue with the process.

 

Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the GPhC, said:

 

“We have been carefully considering the impact of national lockdowns, and the extraordinary circumstances in which provisionally-registered pharmacists are working, on the registration assessment.

 

“We are very aware of the significant stress and pressures that candidates have experienced during the pandemic. We greatly appreciate their patience and the enormous contribution they are continuing to make to the care of patients and the public during this hugely challenging time.

 

“We want to make clear to candidates that our position remains that passing the registration assessment is an essential step towards full registration. We are committed to holding a robust and fair assessment for candidates at the earliest opportunity.

 

“The registration assessment is the most effective method to maintain standards for entry to the pharmacist register in the current system of pharmacist education and training. It plays a key part in providing assurance to patients and the public that pharmacists have the knowledge and skills needed to practise safely and effectively.

 

“It is not feasible to introduce alternative routes to registration for provisionally-registered pharmacists that would uphold standards, protect patient safety and be fair to all candidates.

 

“We are making good progress with preparations for the March sittings and have already received over 1500 applications from candidates to sit in March. We are confident we can hold robust and fair sittings that are as safe as possible for candidates in Pearson VUE’s COVID-secure test centres. Pearson VUE has confirmed their centres will remain open for essential healthcare examinations such as the registration assessment even if we are still in national lockdowns in March. We are keeping the situation under active review but are expecting that the sittings will go ahead as planned.

 

“We would stress to candidates that they should use their judgement when deciding whether to sit the assessment in March and should only sit if they feel fit to do so, bearing in mind they could decide to sit in the summer.

 

“We know that many candidates do want to sit in March, including candidates who were not eligible for provisional registration, so they have the opportunity to register and work as pharmacists at the earliest opportunity.

 

“Being ‘fit to sit’ means that a candidate knows of no reason why their performance would be adversely affected during the assessment, because of illness or other adverse circumstance. Candidates may decide they are not fit to sit for a wide range of reasons, including the impact that the pandemic has had on their health and well-being, or on their ability to prepare adequately for the assessment because of pressures at work or caring responsibilities at home.

 

“Candidates who do not feel fit to sit can instead decide to sit in the summer, and provisional registration will continue until candidates sitting in the summer receive their results. We are working with Pearson VUE to ensure additional capacity for the summer assessment and will confirm those dates shortly.

 

“We would also emphasise to candidates that they can withdraw at any time up until the assessment sitting begins if their circumstances change and they feel they are no longer fit to sit. If they do withdraw, that assessment sitting will not count as one of their attempts, and they will receive a refund of their assessment application fee.

 

“In these very difficult times, we all need to work together to do everything possible to support candidates and give them certainty and clear answers to their questions.  We recognise in particular that there are significant workforce challenges at the moment and are very grateful to employers and to pharmacy teams for all their efforts to support candidates and enable them to take study leave.”

 

 

Has your life been impacted by the situation around the provisional registration process? We would really like to hear from you. If you answer the questions below and indicate that you give us permission we will publish your contribution as a letter to the editor.

 

 

Further information about the registration assessment is available on applying to sit the registration assessment page of the GPhC website. The GPhC has said that they will continue to regularly update the web page with key information and with answers to questions from candidates.

 

GPhC announce major reforms to pharmacist education and training

 

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) Council has approved new standards for the initial education and training of pharmacists.

 

The GPhC has said that the implementation of these standards will transform the education and training of pharmacists, so they are able to play a much greater role in providing clinical care to patients and the public from their first day on the register.

 

The standards set out the knowledge, skills, understanding and professional behaviours a student or trainee pharmacist must demonstrate to pass their initial education and training and to join the professional register. They also set out requirements for organisations providing initial education and training.

Key changes

 

The standards introduce a number of important changes to ensure pharmacists are equipped for their future roles.  These changes include:

 

  • Incorporating the skills, knowledge and attributes for prescribing, to enable pharmacists to independently prescribe from the point of registration.
  • Introducing a new set of learning outcomes that will be used to assess the full five years of education and training, and which can link to a continuum of development into post-registration.
  • Emphasising the application of science in clinical practice and including a greater focus on key skills needed for current and future roles, including professional judgement, management of risk, diagnostic and consultation skills (including for remote consultations).
  • Making the fifth year of initial education and training a foundation training year with strengthened supervision and support and collaborative working between higher education institutions, statutory education bodies and employers.
  • Having a greater emphasis on equality, diversity and inclusion to combat discrimination and address health inequalities.

 

The GPhC has said that these standards have been developed through extensive consultation and engagement with all key stakeholders over the last few years, including a major public consultation.

 

At the December Council meeting, Council members considered the changes that had been made to the standards in response to the feedback received from stakeholders, including from the Advisory Group. The Advisory Group includes representatives from key organisations and stakeholder groups and is chaired by GPhC Council members Rose Marie Parr and Arun Midha. The role of the Advisory Group is to advise the GPhC and PSNI Councils on the standards and their implementation.

Implementing the standards

 

The GPhC will now work with the Advisory Group, and directly with the statutory education bodies, higher education institutions, the NHS in each country of Great Britain, and other employers, to develop a transition plan for implementing the standards in stages over the coming years.

 

The GPhC Council has agreed that the changes, including independent prescribing from the point of registration, will be introduced at the earliest possible opportunity, taking account of the knowledge and skills student and trainee pharmacists, will be developing and making sure the necessary assurances, governance and supervision are in place to appropriately manage patient safety.

GPhC Chair Nigel Clarke said:

 

“These once-in-a-generation reforms will enable future pharmacists to take on new and extended clinical roles and meet the needs of the public and the NHS. In the future, pharmacists will be able to independently prescribe from when they join the register, with appropriate support.

 

“Universities, employers and statutory education bodies will also be working together in new ways to give student pharmacists more clinical experience and provide enhanced support and quality assurance across all five years of education and training.

 

“We would like to thank all of the key stakeholders involved for their help and support to get us to this point, and we will continue to work very closely with them to implement these significant changes.  We know implementing these reforms won’t be easy, but successfully delivering these reforms together will bring long-term benefits for the health service and patients and will help to meet the ambitions of governments and the NHS in each country across the UK. “

 

Dr Keith Ridge CBE, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England, said:

 

“This important and welcome decision by the GPhC is a landmark in the development of the pharmacy profession which will markedly change the future of the pharmacy practice and, most importantly, the care of patients.

 

“Pharmacists becoming independent prescribers at the point of registration is overdue and this alone will demand significant change across the entirety of pharmacist initial education and training, including much more ‘hands-on’ clinical training.

 

“There will be many challenges as we move through the next year or two, but I’m confident we can all work together to build a consensus on how to implement these changes for the benefit of patients.

 

“We’re also committed to ensuring the whole profession, including existing pharmacists, students and trainees, has opportunities to move forwards together, through ongoing funded training and recognition of existing skills and experience, to deliver even better careers for all.”

 

Gail Fleming, Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Director for Education and Professional Development, said:

 

“We warmly welcome the new IET standards and the ambition for pharmacists in future to qualify as independent prescribers. This is a significant step forward for our profession which will enable pharmacists to better fulfil their roles as medicines experts. We’re delighted about the creation of common learning outcome domains across the GPhC standards and RPS post-registration curricula which will create a clear continuum of professional learning and development throughout a pharmacist’s career. We’re also pleased to see that an equality impact assessment has been carried out and look forward to that being published.

 

“Implementing the standards will require investment and we hope that additional funding will be made available to ensure the necessary additional experiential learning is provided.

 

“We look forward to working with the GPhC and other key stakeholders on the IET Advisory Group to ensure there is a robust transition plan so students and trainees can see how this will affect them over the next few years.”

 

 

Have you got a view on these changes? For example, do you think pharmacists should be permitted to become independent prescribers upon registration? 

 

 

 

GPhC announce pre-reg exam date

 

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has written to candidates to confirm that they will be holding two separate sittings of the online registration assessment on 17th and 18th March 2021, respectively.

 

The GPhC has said that while candidates will sit the assessment in a different way to before, the types of questions used and the standard required to pass, will remain the same.

 

In an email sent directly to students GPhC Director of Education and Standards Mark Voce commented:

 

“I am pleased to confirm that we will hold two separate sittings of the online registration assessment one on 17th March 2021 and one the following day, on 18th March 2021.

 

“I’d like to thank you for your patience while we have been working to put in place the arrangements necessary to confirm these dates. I hope that having the dates confirmed will make it easier to prepare and manage your work commitments.

 

“I appreciate it has taken us longer than we would have liked to finalise the arrangements. We have worked through a number of issues relating to the overall security of the assessment and practical considerations to ensure the assessment is fair for candidates.

 

“In particular, we have listened carefully to the concerns that some candidates have had about sitting the online registration assessment at their home due to issues such as internet connections, available technology and suitable home environments. We have therefore arranged with Pearson VUE that candidates will sit the online registration assessment at a Pearson VUE test centre.

 

“The test centres have been made Covid-secure. Due to this, the number of candidates who can sit on each day has been limited. As a result, there will now be two sittings (each with different papers) and candidates will sit the two papers which make up the assessment at a Pearson VUE test centre on one day, either Wednesday 17th March, or Thursday 18th March 2021.

 

“You will need to apply to sit the assessment through your myGPhC account. We will email you to confirm that you are eligible to sit the assessment, when the application form opens in January.

 

“If you have a specific need which you feel could disadvantage you when sitting the registration assessment, you can request a ‘reasonable adjustment’, using the form and information about the assessment which will be available in the coming weeks.

 

“If you previously requested a reasonable adjustment for the sitting in June, you will need to consider whether you need to request an adjustment for this sitting. We will not be carrying over any requests previously granted.

 

“If you believe you are not able to sit the assessment at a test centre due to a particular health condition, for example, you should request a reasonable adjustment and we will provide you with further details about how you can sit the assessment and whether it is open to you to sit at an alternative location other than a test centre.

 

“While we expect people to sit the registration assessment at the earliest opportunity, we also recognise that many of you have experienced significant pressures and demands over recent months as you have helped to deliver vital services to patients and the public or have otherwise had to deal with the impact of the pandemic.

 

“As such, it is important that you only sit the registration assessment if you are fit to do so. If you are concerned that you may not be fit to do so in March, I would like to reassure you that the next assessment will take place in the summer and planning is already underway for that.

 

“We are putting in place answers to the questions most frequently asked and will be confirming more of the practical details about the assessment and the application process, including for overseas candidates, in the coming weeks.

 

“We will add this information to a new assessment web page on the main GPhC website. We will contact you again when this is live to make sure you have the opportunity to read through all the information about the assessment, before the application process opens.

 

“We will also be hosting a webinar to ensure you have the opportunity to raise any particular questions and we will confirm the date of this shortly.

 

“In the meantime, we would emphasise that although the way in which you sit the assessment will be different, the types of questions used and the standard required to pass are not changing.

 

“Thank you again for your continued patience as we work to make sure that the registration assessment continues to be a robust and fair test of your ability to apply your skills and knowledge.

 

“I would like to wish you the best of luck for the assessment.”

 

The news comes as the GPhC had previously confirmed that it will be working with an international assessment company to deliver the online registration assessment. It confirmed that Pearson VUE, a company that specialises in computer-based testing, will hold the registration assessment sittings online for the first time from 2021.

 

Jasraj Matharu, Pharmacist Defence Association Union Executive Member for Students, Pre-reg and Prov-Reg Members commented:

 

“News of the actual registration dates will enable candidates to plan their preparations for study and revision which will restore their motivation and give them a tangible goal to work towards.

 

“Throughout this unprecedented period, the PDA have been continually supporting the cohort and the PDA Education programmes have been a welcome resource.

 

“I would recommend any pre-reg, prov-reg or pharmacist to join the PDA for the support and representation they provide when we need it most”

 

RPS Director for Education Gail Fleming, said:

 

“We’re glad that the delayed assessment date has finally been confirmed. We welcome the use of Pearson Vue centres – this is a model that trainees in England and Wales will be familiar with when applying for pre-registration posts. Trainees will be concerned about reasonable adjustments especially when there may be a last minute change such as a requirement to self-isolate at short notice.

 

“We’re now urging GPhC to act quickly to publish the further details they have committed to providing. These are urgently needed to alleviate the ongoing concerns of those due to sit the assessment.

 

“We know how stressful it’s been for trainees waiting for details of the exam, whilst working hard to support patients and the public during these difficult times.

 

“In a letter to our provisionally registered members, we have committed to continue to provide them with support and help to prepare for the registration exam, and all of the benefits of RPS Pre-Reg membership will remain available for as long as required. Members will have access to our dedicated resources and guidance, and we’ll be running further webinars in the new year – including a full online mock exam which will be free for all RPS members.”

 

 

 

GPhC say pharmacists should be able to independently prescribe upon registration

 

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) Council has agreed on the overall direction of the review of the standards for initial education and training of pharmacists and the next steps to finalise and implement the standards.

 

At the November meeting, the Council reviewed the current draft of the standards.

 

Council members Rose Marie Parr and Arun Midha, who are jointly chairing the Advisory Group on the standards, gave an update on the feedback and key issues discussed at the group’s meeting earlier this month.  The Advisory Group includes representatives from a wide range of stakeholders, including universities, employers, student representatives and statutory education bodies.

 

Rose Marie and Arun also highlighted the areas where further drafting is taking place in response to the Advisory Group’s feedback.

 

The further work underway includes:

 

  • Reviewing some of the levels and headings in the learning outcomes to ensure these are right, with a particular focus on the progression from year four to five and then to post-registration.
  • Making sure the elements of the standards relating to independent prescribing are appropriately woven through the five years of education and training.
  • Setting out the respective roles and accountabilities of the different organisations in relation to the Foundation training year more clearly within the standards.

 

The GPhC is continuing to work closely with key stakeholders, including the Pharmacy Schools Council and the statutory national education bodies, to inform the final drafting. The Council noted the generous offers of assistance from stakeholders to help with this.

 

It was agreed at the meeting that the Council would consider the final draft of the standards at the December Council meeting, once this work has been completed.

 

Council members also agreed that the GPhC needs to work with the Advisory Group to develop a transition plan for how and when the standards would be implemented. There was clear support for the standards being implemented as part of an iterative process and that changes, including to support the aim that pharmacists can independently prescribe from the point of registration, should be implemented at the earliest possible opportunity.

 

Nigel Clarke, Chair of the GPhC, said:

 

“These new standards will transform the education and training of pharmacists, so they will be able to play a much greater role in providing clinical care to patients and the public from their first day on the register.

 

“There is real momentum and support behind the standards from our Council and from the Advisory Group. We are working with pace and ambition to finalise the standards and working closely with everyone involved to develop a practical and realistic transition plan to implement them.

 

“We are very grateful for the hugely collaborative and collegiate approach that stakeholders have taken in working with us to finalise the standards. There is a real willingness to work together to make this happen, whilst recognising that there are still challenges to overcome.

 

“There was a clear steer from our Council that the standards should be implemented in a way that enables improvements to happen as soon as possible to meet the current and future needs of patients and the public.  This includes considering the earliest possible time when newly-registered pharmacists would be able to prescribe, taking account of the knowledge and skills they will be developing and the necessary assurances for patient safety.”

 

 

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GPhC confirm supplier for 2021 registration assessment

 

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has confirmed that it will be working with an international assessment company to deliver the online registration assessment. It has been confirmed that Pearson VUE, a company that specialises in computer-based testing, will hold the registration assessment sittings online for the first time from 2021.

 

The GPhC has said that the registration assessment provides assurance to patients and the public that the pharmacy professionals on our register can practice safely and effectively, by testing that pre-registration trainee pharmacists can demonstrate that they understand how to apply knowledge appropriately and in a timely way, to make professional judgements in pharmacy practice.

 

Candidates must pass the ‘high-stakes assessment’ to be eligible to join the register as a pharmacist.

 

Sittings usually take place twice a year in June and September, but sittings in 2020 were postponed as a result of the pandemic. From 2021, the registration assessment will be held online.

 

Pearson VUE provides a suite of services from test development to online proctoring for information technology, academic, government and professional testing programs around the world. This currently includes holding assessments for the Nursing and Midwifery Council in Great Britain, the Australian Pharmacy Council and the New Zealand Pharmacy Council.

 

The GPhC had previously communicated limited details about the date for this year’s registration exam. They had said that the exam will take place in the first quarter of 2021 and have assured those involved that the exam will not happen in the first two weeks of January.

 

Mark Voce, GPhC Director of Education and Standards said:

 

“I’m pleased to confirm that we have identified Pearson VUE as our preferred supplier through a thorough tender process which assessed bids against our rigorous requirements for quality, security and accessibility of the registration assessment.

 

“We are confident that together we can hold online assessment sittings which give candidates a robust and fair test opportunity to demonstrate their ability to apply their skills and knowledge.”

 

Matthew Poyiadgi, Vice President EMEA, Pearson VUE, commented:

 

‘’Licenses and certifications uphold the standards of safe practice in the healthcare sector, proving that professionals such as pharmacists have the knowledge and ability to provide safe and effective treatment. We are delighted to be able to support GPhC in its delivery of online assessments from next year.’’

 

Gail Fleming, RPS Director of Education, said:

 

“It’s still very disappointing that the GPhC is not able to provide trainees with a definite date for the delayed assessment. This remains a very difficult situation for those affected and RPS continues to support them.

 

“Whilst we welcome this latest communication from the GPhC as a step in the right direction, we continue to push for quicker action to set an exact date to provide certainty to those who will be sitting the exam. Information about the format of the assessment including resources and the arrangements for reasonable adjustments is needed now to alleviate the ongoing concerns of many trainees.”

 

 

Has your life been impacted by the situation around the provisional registration process? We would really like to hear from you. If you answer the questions below and indicate that you give us permission we will publish your contribution as a letter to the editor.

 

 

 

GPhC fail to meet fitness to practise standards

 

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has found that the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has met 15 out of 18 of the PSA’s Standards of Good Regulation in the year 2019:2020. The three standards not achieved in this report were related to the GPhC processes related to the fitness to practise process.

 

The PSA has acknowledged that the GPhC continued its work to address the concerns they reported last year about timeliness, customer service, reasoning in investigating committee decisions and the transparency and fairness of a number of fitness to practise processes.

 

The PSA said they saw evidence of improvements in investigating committee decisions, so no longer have significant concerns in this area.

 

The results published against all standards are outlined below:

 

  • General standards (5 standards met out of 5).
  • Guidance and standards (2 standards met out of 2).
  • Education and training (2 standards met out of 2).
  • Registrations (4 standards met out of 4).
  • Fitness to practise (2 standards met out of 5).

 

For the first time, the performance assessment has taken account of the GPhC’s work in relation to registered pharmacies, and this has been reflected in the report.

 

In a statement on their website, the GPhC highlighted that the report covers the period from 1st March 2019 to 28th February 2020, so it does not comment on the GPhC’s regulatory response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The GPhC has also started a consultation on how they deal with fitness to practise concerns.

 

Commenting on the findings the PSA commented:

 

The GPhC has implemented improvements to address the concerns we raised last year about its fitness to practise process. We saw improvements in the level of detail and reasoning in investigating committee decisions.

 

“However, the remaining work was not implemented in time for us to assess it as part of this review. Therefore, our concerns about timeliness, customer service and the transparency and fairness of a number of fitness to practise processes remain and we concluded that the GPhC has not met Standards 15, 16 and 18 of the Standards of Good Regulation.”

 

Commenting specifically on the fitness to practise concerns the PSA said the following:

 

“The GPhC has continued its work to address the concerns we reported last year about timeliness, customer service, reasoning in investigating committee decisions and the transparency and fairness of a number of fitness to practise processes.

 

“We saw evidence of improvements in investigating committee decisions, so no longer have significant concerns in this area. However, due to the timing of most of the other work in the GPhC’s action plan, and the period covered by this report, we have not yet seen the impact of the measures put in place to address our other concerns.

 

“We welcome the GPhC’s continuing commitment to address our concerns and will review progress next year.”

 

GPhC Chief Executive Duncan Rudkin said:

 

“We welcome the constructive feedback from the PSA. We are as committed as ever to improving as an organisation, so we can best support the needs of patients, the public and registrants.

 

“The action plan established in response to the previous review has resulted in improvements to our processes, as identified by the PSA in its report. We continue to build on these improvements in line with our action plan and regularly evaluate our progress.

 

“Our strategy about how we will manage concerns about pharmacy professionals in the future, which we launched this week, provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to share their views on how we can best achieve our aim of delivering a fitness to practise process that is more proportionate, person-centred and effective.”

 

You can read the full report by clicking here.

 

If you have ever been involved in the fitness to practise process Pharmacy in Practice would like to hear from you.