Four out of every five pharmacist trainees passed this summer’s registration exam, where some candidates faced delays and disruption during the sitting, it has been announced.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI), which jointly held the exam, said that out of 2,697 candidates, 80% passed the June assessment – compared with an 82% pass rate for summer and 61% for autumn 2021.

The pass rate was highest first-time sitters at 82%, while 54% of second-time sitters passed and 65% of third-time sitters, with a total of three attempts allowed under current rules.

This comes after trainee pharmacists staged a protest earlier this month calling on the GPhC to take more measures to address the impact of exam disruption, including delays and technical difficulties.

GPhC agreed to their request to extend the eight-year limit for taking the registration exam for affected candidates, but the protestors have further demands, including that sitting does not count towards a total number of failed attempts, for any candidate who failed the 29 June exam.

Duncan Rudkin, GPhC chief executive, acknowledged the sitting was a ‘difficult and stressful experience for many’ and apologised for ‘the problems faced by a number of candidates on the day’, pointing to a GPhC guide on the options available to unsuccessful candidates.

He added: ‘We wish the successful candidates all the best in their future careers and encourage those who were unsuccessful to make full use of our guide to help them with their next steps towards future registration and success in the profession.’

Trevor Patterson, PSNI chief executive, added: ‘We would like to apologise to those candidates that experienced disruption... and to reassure them that steps are being taken to ensure learnings from the assessment are applied.’

Also responding to the results, Colette Bradford, director of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA), said candidates ‘are now facing emotional, financial and health challenges through no fault of their own’, following ‘issues on assessment day’.

She added: ‘The PDA expects that the GPhC will continue to work with affected candidates and ensure that they take a truly empathic, supportive, and flexible approach to all appeals that they receive over the coming weeks.’

The PDA said it encouraged any unsuccessful candidates in this summer’s assessment to appeal if any of the following applied:

  • Reasonable adjustments confirmed in writing from the GPhC/PSNI in advance of the sitting and were not fully implemented on the day
  • Unacceptable levels of noise or disruption on the day which would indicate that the venue used was not fit for the purpose of a high-stakes exam sitting
  • Technical difficulties which interfered with your ability to sit the assessment fairly and which were reported to the invigilator on the day
  • A delay of 30 mins or more to the exam commencing, and you have not been informed by the regulator that your sitting is nullified
  • A delay of 30 minutes or more for your first sitting and you have not been offered the opportunity to join the provisional register by GPhC.

The GPhC has set out a number of further steps following the exam disruption, including allowing provisional registration for candidates who faced delays and ‘procedural issues’, as well as a full refund and for the sitting not to count as an attempt.