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GPhC hammered over exam delay chaos


GPhC hammered over exam delay chaos

By Neil Trainis

The General Pharmaceutical Council has been accused of putting students through unnecessary stress and anxiety having again struggled to hold its registration assessment.

There were delays to yesterday’s June exam at five test centres, with students sitting the assessment at Nottingham University having to wait until late in the afternoon to start the first paper.

The regulator put the delay down to “technical issues”. According to reports on social media, computers did not arrive at the test centre until 11am.

Students also said they were forced to quarantine inside a lecture theatre without any food for hours and some said they were asked by staff to leave the building late into the evening before finishing the exam because the venue was closing.

One student said: “Left the Notts GPhC exam at 11pm, was in the building for 14 hours, sat for eight hours in starvation waiting to sit the exam – was made to press-end test 30 minutes before my exam timer was up because they ‘had to close the building,’ didn’t get to read the last 22 questions.”

Lou Beaumont, the education and training lead pharmacist at Nottingham University Hospitals, said the GPhC told her in a phone call yesterday afternoon that trainees would be able to complete the papers “or nullify and withdraw”. She described it as a “wholly unacceptable situation for trainee well-being".

At the time of going to press, the GPhC had not confirmed which other test centres had been affected.

In a statement released last night, GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin (pictured) said the regulator was “extremely sorry for the severe delays experienced by candidates in Nottingham” and insisted yesterday’s sitting will not count as one of the three failed attempts for students who do not pass.

“We fully appreciate the significant stress and disruption this must have caused for them in such a high-stakes assessment,” he said, promising to work alongside exam sittings provider BTL to look into the cause of the delays.

It is not the first time the GPhC has been criticised over its handling of the assessment.

Students struggled to book their places for the March 2021 exam at test centres run by the previous exam provider Pearson Vue because they were fully booked and in Scotland, some candidates were told they would have to cross the border into England for the exam before alternative arrangements were made.

Candidates sitting the July 2021 assessment remotely were unable to sit it because of internet connection issues and a number of students in test centres also experienced technical issues.

And earlier this year, the GPhC told candidates who had booked their sitting for this summer’s exam before bookings had officially opened that their place would be cancelled and they would need to rebook before quickly performing a U-turn.

The latest episode will have done nothing to convince students and the wider pharmacy profession that the GPhC is capable of holding the assessment without any problems.

The regulator said it will contact all candidates to hear about their experiences and BTL managing director Sonya Whitworth said her company will carry out a full investigation with its test centre providers to “ensure that mitigations are put in place to prevent this happening again".

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society urged the GPhC “to ensure any foundation trainee’s progression to registration is not unfairly disrupted or delayed due to issues beyond the candidate's control".

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