The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has apologised to pre and provisionally registered pharmacists over issues many have faced with the registration assessment booking system.

In a statement issued yesterday (2 March), the regulator said resolving the issues with booking places for the pre-reg exam – which is now only three weeks’ away – was its ‘top priority right now’.

This comes as some candidates reported last week they had struggled to book a place at a test centre near to where they lived due to slots booking up ‘within minutes’ of going live.

Students have also criticised the regulator after they booked afternoon exam slots via the booking system, only to find out later that these sittings did not actually exist.

The GPhC confirmed on Twitter on Monday (1 March) that there had been a technical error and said Pearson VUE – the supplier for the assessment this year – would be in touch with candidates who had booked an afternoon slot to book them another place.

Duncan Rudkin, GPhC chief executive, said yesterday: ‘I am really sorry about the issues some candidates are experiencing with the registration assessment booking system. Making life more stressful for any candidates, particularly at this difficult time, is the last thing we want to do.

‘As well as apologising, I want to reassure candidates that we are continuing to make good progress with resolving the remaining issues with booking places for the March sittings. This is our top priority right now.

The pre-reg exam is scheduled to take place at Pearson VUE test centres on 17 and 18 March after months of delays.

Pearson VUE has also been approached for comment.

Afternoon slots issue

Courtney Ella Preston, a provisionally registered pharmacist in south London, told the Pharmacist she had booked a slot for 2:45pm in Islington for the 18 March. However, she said she later found out from another prov-reg pharmacist that this time slot did not exist.

Ms Preston said: ‘It’s all been a shambles from start to finish, I have no idea what is going on.

‘I've looked online to rebook to see if there are any slots available for either 17th or 18th and there is nothing left in the whole of Greater London. I've looked at Bristol too - where my parents live - and nothing there either.’

Keenan Kam, another prov-reg pharmacist also told the Pharmacist he has had to try and rebook his exam after initially booking an afternoon slot.

Mr Kam added: ‘I’m not as frustrated as I should be, I know lots of people have been extremely upset. All I know is if it was Pearson VUE or the GPhC making an error in the system it is not my responsibility to fix it, so no point worrying.

‘[At the] end of the day, they are the regulators. If I for whatever reason don’t get to sit the pre-reg exam, my professional registration will be on GPhC.’

Other students have detailed their experiences online describing the situation as ‘unfair’ and ‘inexcusable.’ Some students also said they found the process stressful and anxiety inducing.

GPhC statement

Duncan Rudkin said: ‘We have worked with Pearson VUE to identify additional capacity, particularly for candidates in Scotland. We are currently working to finalise arrangements for these further places and aim to be in touch with relevant candidates very soon.

‘Pearson VUE has confirmed that places have now been booked for candidates sitting remotely because of reasonable adjustments or because they are based overseas. These candidates should receive a confirmation email from Pearson VUE about their remote sitting place.’

He added: ‘Pearson VUE has also been contacting a number of candidates who had booked afternoon sitting places due to a technical error, to reallocate them to a morning sitting.’