The Royal Pharmaceutical Society on Tuesday (Feb 9) has urged the GPhC to reconsider its decision to exclude 69 foreign registrants from the assessment scheduled for March 2021.

Last week, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) gave 69 pharmacy trainees just six weeks’ notice that they will not be able to take the registration exams if they are in a country with a time difference greater than five hours from the UK.

The registrants who are staying or residing in foreign countries are unable to reach the UK due to persisting Covid-19 pandemic and various travel restrictions.

RPS said in a letter to the pharmacy regulator: “We were astounded that trainees have been given six weeks’ notice of this change and are unclear how the inability of the chosen provider to deliver a synchronised assessment overseas was not identified during the procurement process in 2020.

“Expecting candidates to travel into the UK in the midst of a pandemic is unreasonable, especially to take an online exam. In addition many trainees will be unable to secure the correct visa and there are financial consequences of travel and quarantining, as well as the significant impact on their mental health and wellbeing.”

The RPS has heard from trainees affected that some of whom left the UK only because they believed that they could take the assessment in their home country. “You will be aware that the consequences of a delay are enormous, particularly for UK pharmacy graduates in Hong Kong who require full UK registration to be able to practice,” RPS said.

In a joint letter to GPhC chair Nigel Clarke, RPS has also urged the pharmacy regulator to treat all foreign provisional pharmacy registrants equally with their UK counterparts. “It is important that these trainees are not discriminated against and are provided equal opportunities to UK-based trainees. We urge the GPhC to urgently reconsider its position and revisit the balance of risks in the same way as other examination providers have done.”

RPS Boards are also seeking assurances from the GPhC that the current intake of preregistration pharmacists will not be subjected to the same level of disruption with their assessment.

It also reminded that the GPhC that confirmation of the date and arrangements for the June assessment would help to allay these concerns.

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