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The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has decided on the criteria to register pharmacists on a provisional basis as part its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move follows the postponement of registration assessments scheduled for June and September as a result of the virus outbreak.

The regulator added that the assessment is now expected to be held online.

“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,” commented Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC.

“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.”

The provisional registration will be valid from 1 July 2020 until 1 July 2021. Pre-registration pharmacist trainees can apply from July and begin to join the register from 1 August, as announced by the regulator late last month.

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.

Provisionally registered pharmacists need to be employed directly by the organisation or business in which they are working, refraining them from taking up locum assignments.

They must practice under the guidance of a senior pharmacist, and may work as the Responsible Pharmacist.

The GPhC said it will soon issue standards for employers setting out the framework in which pharmacists who are registered provisionally must operate.

The provisionally registered pharmacists are expected to sit for the registration assessment at the first opportunity if they are fit to do so. They must pass the registration assessment in order to remain on the register.

The Council of the GPhC has also agreed in principle to conduct the registration assessment online, taking account of the necessary technical, security, accessibility and content issues. The regulator said it will give a minimum of two months’ notice of the date for the assessment.

Welcoming the measures, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said it will work with the regulator and  pharmacists in its implementation.

“We are pleased that there is now some clarity about what provisional registration looks like so that employers and pre-registration pharmacists can start to move forward and make plans for their future,” commented Gail Fleming, RPS director for education.

“We are keen to ensure that appropriate solutions are found to the examination issue and are pleased to see that the registration assessment is moving online.  We will actively engage with the GPhC to help ensure that this is implemented in as timely a manner as possible.

“We recognise that provisional registrants will face significant challenges, balancing the pressures of exam preparation and practising as pharmacists. RPS will continue to support provisional registrants with a range of products and services.”

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