Resitters: The forgotten pre-registration pharmacist cohort


In response to the following article:


GPhC announce results of provisionally-registered pharmacist survey


Dear PIP editor,


I have a family member who has been affected by the delay of the pre-registration exam. He sat the exam last year and failed by only a couple of marks in the calculations part of the exam. The outcome of this exam may have been impacted by unexpected personal issues in his life just before the exam itself. He was very hopeful to be sitting the exam again this year and had invested more time into preparing for this only to find out it had been postponed.


Unlike the rest of the pre-registration pharmacists, he was unable to be provisionally registered due to failing a part of the exam by a couple of marks. This has not only set him back but also really affected his mental health knowing many other people is his position were practising and he was unable to with no clear date and answer as to when the exam will be held.


It is very upsetting for me to see how people like him and others in his position have been given no extra support or guidance. Most of the information provided is for the pharmacists with the provisional registrations.


I find this appalling.


Other councils such as the NMC and GMC have supported the students affected by the pandemic and tried to facilitate people of all circumstances.


More could be done to help.


There should be more clear guidance and regular updates about what is being done to support those who cannot practise as provisional pharmacists. There should also be more regular updates on what is being done to set a clear date for the exam. More support should be given to those who were not able to register provisionally for whatever reason.


Despite all this, I still think provisionally registered pharmacists should not be allowed to register this year without sitting an exam.


For someone that has previously failed the calculations exam by two marks, this situation needs to be remedied as soon as possible. His career means a lot to him. Therefore, watching people who are now able to practise with a provisional licence yet being unable to do the same himself is very distressing.


This has impacted my family member financially, and mentally. He has been set back in many ways. Family life at home has been affected and he is also financially worse off.


Yours etc.


The author of this letter is a nurse practitioner writing on behalf of a close family member with permission and wishes to remain anonymous.



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.





Provisionally registered pharmacists to receive 38k salary


Following the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) recent update on provisional registration, LloydsPharmacy has begun to offer over 100 permanent roles across the UK, prioritising those already working in its network. The pharmacy multiple will be paying all pre-regs eligible for provisional registration a salary of £38,000, based on a 40-hour working week, as well as providing a ‘structured clinical support programme’ to help them deliver safe and effective care.


The GPhC has agreed to provisionally register eligible pre-regs after the registration assessments scheduled for June and September 2020 were postponed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, and the registration assessment is now expected to be held online.


To be eligible to join the pharmacist register on a provisional basis, pre-reg pharmacists must successfully meet a number of criteria and the regulator has said that structured support should be provided by their employer of choice, including access to a mentor.


The adapted programme will help develop those who are eligible for provisional registration this year through clinical learning and preparation for the assessment. This will include 30-minute lunchtime learning sessions, monthly clinical learning topics, with suggested study and quizzes to test knowledge and identify gaps, as well as a mock exam.


LloydsPharmacy will also be supporting its provisionally registered pharmacists by finding them a suitable mentor, as well as ensuring they have access to a support network.


Victoria Steele, deputy superintendent at LloydsPharmacy, said: 


We want to find a role for as many of our 150 pre-regs as possible. We’ll be matching them with our vacancies first but will also have positions for external pre-regs.”


“The new provisional registration and postponement of the exam has meant we’ve had to adapt the programme but the principles at the heart of it are all still important for provisional registration.


“When I think back to making that transition from pre-registration to practising pharmacist myself, it was a daunting experience for me and many of my peers, knowing that you are the person that is ultimately responsible for the safety of your patients.


“As a newly qualified pharmacist, there is still so much to learn and take in. We want to provide an extra layer of support and help develop our next generation of pharmacists from the very start of their career with us.”


“We want to set our provisionally registered pharmacists up to be great pharmacists, not just good ones by helping them develop skills such as leadership, decision making and professionalism. The more we can support and develop them, the better the service and expertise they can provide to our customers and patients.”   


“In addition to wanting our new pharmacists to feel supported, we also want them to feel valued, which is why we’ve made the decision for them to also benefit from our increased minimum rate of pay, of £18.50 per hour, that we announced in April of this year.”



GPhC reveal criteria for pharmacist provisional registration


The Council of the GPhC has today agreed on a policy for registering pharmacists on a provisional basis as part of the regulator’s response to the pandemic.


The policy sets out the criteria that this year’s pre-registration pharmacist trainees will have to meet to be eligible to join the pharmacist register on a provisional basis. It also outlines requirements that employers must put in place to support provisionally-registered pharmacists and to protect patient safety.


This decision comes after the registration assessments scheduled for June and September 2020 were postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Eligibility criteria for provisional registration 


The policy sets out criteria for applying to provisionally register as a pharmacist apply from 1 July 2020 until 1 July 2021. Trainees can apply from July and begin to join the register from 1 August.


The criteria include; successfully completing 52 weeks pre-registration training, not having previously failed the registration assessment and having received a final declaration from their tutor confirming that they have met all the performance standards and are safe to be registered provisionally.


All provisionally registered pharmacists will have to be employed directly by the organisation or business in which they are working (and so cannot work as a locum) and must practise under the guidance and direction of a senior pharmacist. The policy confirms they may operate as the Responsible Pharmacist.


The GPhC will also issue standards for employers which will set out the framework in which pharmacists who are registered provisionally must operate, after carrying out further engagement with key stakeholders.


The standards will include information about the structured support that must be in place and the requirements that must be fulfilled by the employer when considering the location in which they will practise and the responsibilities they will be expected to undertake.  The policy states that employers must complete a risk assessment, provide access to a named experienced pharmacist for clinical advice; and enable other support such as access to a mentor.


Registration assessment 


The policy confirms that individuals who are provisionally registered must sit the registration assessment at the first opportunity if they are fit to do so and must pass the registration assessment in order to remain on the register.


The Council agreed that, subject to the outcome of a procurement exercise, the registration assessment should be delivered online as soon as is practicable, taking account of the necessary technical, security, accessibility and content issues.  This reflects the current Government requirements in relation to social distancing and large gatherings and takes account of the possibility of such requirements either continuing or being re-imposed later.


Further information about the registration assessment will be provided once the procurement is complete and individuals will be given a minimum of two months’ notice of the date for the assessment.


The GPhC is contacting pre-registration trainees and tutors via email to let them know about the criteria for provisional registration and to advise them that the registration assessment is now expected to be held online.


Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council commented:


“We want to first thank all pre-reg trainees and tutors for their continued hard work and patience while we have been developing this policy. We know this is a very difficult situation for them.


“Our approach has been informed by discussions with a wide range of stakeholders, including trainee representatives, professional leadership and representative bodies, employers and education and training bodies across England, Scotland and Wales.


“There were lots of complex issues which we have had to carefully consider, and we have had to balance risks and benefits when deciding the approach. The Council’s final decisions have been guided by a set of principles, including maintaining standards for entry to the register to protect patient safety and quality of care, and the importance of maintaining the workforce pipeline so that pharmacy can continue to serve the needs of patients.


“We will continue to engage with stakeholders as we put this policy into practice, both to help inform our thinking on any particular points where we need to clarify the policy further, and to make sure that professional leadership and representative bodies, education and training organisations and employers are all able to play their part effectively in supporting trainees through this process.”




Pharmacist registration delay a blow to community pharmacy


The body representing community pharmacy in Northern Ireland has warned that if the delay in pharmacy pre-registration students joining the PSNI register is not reversed, then the sector will face another crisis. 


The warning comes on the back of the news that the pharmacy regulatory body in Northern Ireland plans to delay the pre-registration exams from June until August at the earliest.


The exams are for pre-registration pharmacy students who have already completed their pharmacy degree and have been working in practice for around ten months. 


The delay means that 150 newly registered pharmacists will not now be joining the pharmacy workforce this summer as planned and at a time when extra capacity is needed. 


Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, community pharmacies were one of the first services to witness a steep and immediate increase in demand for medicines.


A commitment to keep the service going has seen many pharmacists work longer hours and battle with capacity issues due to self-isolation of staff displaying symptoms of Covid-19.  


Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI, Gerard Greene said:  


“This news is a blow to our network because every year we rely on this influx of newly registered pharmacists to take up roles in our community pharmacies. This is even more of a problem during this pandemic as our workforce has struggled with the rise in demand for services and are operating at very limited capacity.”


“The new registrants typically join the workforce over the summer months and the delay in this means we are not likely to see these pharmacists bolster the workforce until the autumn.”


“This is also very different to what we have seen from our medical and nursing counterparts who immediately agreed to fast-track final year students and get them into the workforce so they could join frontline efforts to fight coronavirus. This is not the time to delay the qualification of key health care workers.”


“We are calling on the Minister to intervene to get this decision reversed and allow pharmacy pre-registration exams to go ahead in June as normal.”




No provisional registration for NI pre-reg pharmacists


The Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has said that they will not permit any pre-registration pharmacist to join the register without first meeting the usual requirements of the registration process.


This means that there will be no provisional registration process for pre-registration pharmacists in Northern Ireland.


It also means that a registration exam will take place in the summer. PSNI has said that this will likely happen in August. They are currently exploring potential venues. The venue must allow for appropriate social distancing and will therefore likely involve the use of multiple venues.


The Chief Pharmaceutical Officer in Northern Ireland has confirmed that the funding for the pre-registration scheme in Northern Ireland will continue until the August exam date.


The PSNI has said that this will mean that students will have an extended pre-registration year as a result of these measures and that during this period after the 52 week period they would potentially not be the only student under the supervision of a tutor. Students have been urged to use this time to continue their learning in practice.


In a statement issued by PSNI Chief Executive Trevor Patterson he said:


“The use of the COVID-19 temporary register, with conditions on registration, was considered and is not currently being progressed as it is time-limited and all registrations lapse when the emergency is declared over, which may be before the examination has been taken.


“Having taken legal opinion about the use of a “provisional register” and fully researched our options, we are advised that in order to comply with our Regulations, aside from temporary registration on the COVID-19 temporary register, we cannot admit anyone to our register from the pre-registration programme unless they have fulfilled all the conditions set out in Schedule 2 of the Regulations which include having satisfactorily completed 52 weeks of training and having successfully completed the registration examination.


“Candidates intending to sit the examination will only be eligible after satisfactory completion of 39 weeks of training confirmed by their tutor, and when they have completed a minimum of 45 weeks training.


“Council has considered the available options have determined that an examination will be scheduled in early August, subject to government advice on gatherings at that time. We are currently researching venues with the intention of locating a number of sites which will facilitate adequate social distancing and will make a further announcement later with dates available venues and examination registration procedures.


“We would urge as many students and tutors as possible to complete any remaining compulsory aspects of training including 39-week appraisals and ensure that at least 45 weeks of training has been completed by the end of July.


“The Chief Pharmaceutical Officer has advised that the Department will ensure pre-registration funding is available until the registration date in August, allowing trainees to remain in post with the agreement of their employer. Consideration is also being given to measures that may be needed to help students to prepare for the exam and to support professional development during the first year in practice.


“When 52 weeks of training is complete, trainees will still require pharmacist supervision but need not be the sole pupil of their tutor. This additional period should be used to continue learning in preparation for entering practice and sitting the registration examination.


“Should it not be possible for reasons outside our control to run the examination in August, we are developing contingency plans for alternative methods or dates of delivery and will update on these before the end of July.”




Provisional pharmacist registration could begin in August


The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is developing a provisional registration option for current pre-registration trainees who meet certain criteria and have said that they are working on the basis that those who are eligible would be able to join the register at the same time as they usually would, in August this year.


The announcement comes after the postponement of this year’s GPhC and PSNI registration exam.


In a letter to pre-registration students GPhC Chief Executive Duncan Rudkin commented:


“We know you are anxious to hear any updates about provisional registration and the postponed registration assessments. Thank you for your patience while we continue to develop a way forward in this challenging situation.


“Provisional registration and holding a registration assessment are priority issues for us. Both are complex and we want to make sure that the arrangements we put in place are practicable, fair, and provide the necessary safeguards and reassurance to patients and the public.”


The letter outlined that on Tuesday 21 April, the GPhC held a virtual meeting with organisations representing students and trainees, universities, employers, education and training bodies and others from across the UK, to discuss the proposals and help everyone involved understand how these might work in practice. The GPhC Council also discussed the issues and options during a virtual workshop on Thursday 23 April.


The letter goes on to outline the current thinking on how to proceed with pre-registration activities:


“We know many of you are experiencing significant uncertainty and want answers as soon as possible. We are working as quickly as possible to develop the way forward. There are lots of complex issues that need to be worked through carefully, to make sure the final approach works in different practice settings and in each of the three countries.”


The GPhC has laid out the key principles they are using to help inform the decisions they are making about pre-registration training and the registration assessment. These principles are as follows:


  • Maintain standards for entry to the register to protect patient safety and the quality of care given to patients and the public, both now and over the long term.
  • Support the NHS and community pharmacy by strengthening the workforce at this critical time.
  • Safeguard the welfare of students and trainees whilst also ensuring that their hard work, and that of their tutors, over many years is given suitable recognition at this key stage in their professional lives.
  • Minimise blockages or gaps in the pipeline for qualified new registrants to join the profession in 2020 and in the following years.


The letter from Mr Rudkin sought to reassure pre-registration students:


“We will make sure all trainees get the information they need to apply for registration as far in advance as possible.


“We believe that those entered on the register would need structured support to manage the transition into practice as a pharmacist and we will continue to work with partners on what that would involve and what requirements would need to be in place.


“We propose that time spent provisionally registered would count towards the two years of practice needed to become an independent prescriber and towards any Foundation training that provisionally-registered pharmacists may undertake.


“We will now continue to work closely with our partners to develop these proposals further. This includes determining the criteria and process to become provisionally registered, and the structured support and requirements that trainees will need to have in place to practise safely.


“We will be sharing further details with you as soon as possible and seeking views to make sure the process is practicable, fair, and provides the necessary safeguards and reassurance to patients and the public.”


Mr Rudkin went on to make comment about the arrangements for the registration assessment:


“We are continuing to consider a range of different options for the postponed registration assessments. This includes looking at the format of the assessment, and whether a move to an online sitting would be possible.


“We are investigating learning and experience from other healthcare training schemes and university assessments which have been recently adapted as part of this work.”


“We understand that many trainees are now approaching, or have reached week 39 of their training when they are due to be assessed. We would like to make clear that tutors should carry out the week 39 assessment, whenever this is possible. Make sure you keep a copy for your records – but there’s no need to send it to us at the moment.


“We would like to reassure you that we will keep you updated regularly on the progress of these proposals as we work to make sure that they are fair, safe and practicable.


“Thank you again for your patience and your ongoing work to support patients and the public during the pandemic.


The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) had previously called for pre-registration pharmacists to be registered provisionally without delay and today they have welcomed the update from the GPhC.


The RPS made a statement earlier today in support of the proposals to begin provisional registration in August:


“Pre-reg pharmacists are understandably worried about their future careers. We’re really pleased that the GPhC have today announced that provisional registration of pre-registration pharmacists will begin in August. This brings welcome certainty to what happens next, even though we recognise much more detail is needed.


“We’re glad that the GPhC has also agreed to our calls that time spent previously registered will:


  • Count towards the two years of practice needed to become an independent prescriber.
  • Count towards any Foundation training that provisionally registered pharmacists may undertake.


RPS Director of Education and Professional Development Gail Fleming said:

“This letter from the GPhC is important as is the need to develop a model for both the assessment and provisional registration quickly. The proposal for structured support is welcomed. We believe this should be commensurate with our previous asks for Foundation training to have a named and trained preceptor, as well as development and regular review against the RPS Foundation Pharmacist Framework.

“We will be working with GPhC to develop these provisional registration proposals further and help support pre-reg pharmacists as well as possible during this very challenging situation.”