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The Pharmacists Defence Association (PDA) has urged pharmacy employers to support prov-regs pharmacists by allowing the study and revision leave they may need ahead of taking their exams.

“The cohort are concerned that their employers are becoming less supportive and may not agree to the exam preparation leave they need,” the PDA said in a statement today (Nov 18).

“As the next wave of the pandemic manifests and preparation for the vaccination programme makes clear the unprecedented scale of the task ahead, pharmacists will be needed more than ever.  Nevertheless, the population of prov-reg pharmacists and those who are re-sitting the exam still need to have adequate time to prepare,” it added.

The PDA is hearing from members who say their employers are suggesting that approving leave for exam preparation would be more difficult due to the pandemic workload.

The association believes the whole sector should be supporting budding pharmacists to have a fair chance of passing their exam.

“Making it even harder for the prov-regs to pass could cause further problems to the sector; if prov- regs fail, they will be immediately removed from the register and that could mean hundreds of pharmacists disappear from the profession at the height of the vaccination programme during the second wave of the pandemic,” the PDA has cautioned.

The pharmacy regulator, GPhC, previously confirmed that their online assessment would be held on a date in the first quarter of 2021, while avoiding the first two weeks of January. There is a possibility that online assessment for prov-regs and pre-reg resitters could be announced with only two months’ notice.

This means that any day from November 18, the regulator could announce that the exam will be held in two months’ time; such a short time frame makes the planning of study and revision leave a bigger challenge for employers, prov-regs and re-sitters, but it is essential.

“The PDA are reiterating our call for all employers to ensure that the 2020 cohort, many of whom have worked throughout the pandemic, are given the time off for study and revision that they need,” the association noted.

“There is a readily available population of locums in the sector so employers can begin making arrangements to secure cover and enable reasonable and planned time off for those taking the assessment examination,” the PDA concluded.

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