The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have announced a 61% pass rate for the first four-country common registration exam for pharmacists.

The assessment, completed by students in November of this year, was the third assessment the GPhC has held online and the first common registration assessment.

This autumn’s pass rate of 61% is a eight percent decrease from the 69% pass rate for the autumn 2019 registration assessment, and a four percent drop 65% pass rate — compared to this assessment — for the Autumn 2018 registration assessment.

A total of 959 candidates sat the online exam this autumn, of which 414 (43%) were first time sitters, 433 (45%) were second time sitters and 112 (12%) third time sitters.

There were 283 provisionally registered pharmacists sitting the common registration exam of which 176 (67%) passed.

The GPhC and PSNI first announced that they would introduce a common registration exam across the UK in 2019 to ‘fully harmonise’ pharmacy education across the UK.

Commenting on the new assessment, GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said: ‘We have worked closely with the Pharmaceutical Society NI to hold the first joint common registration assessment for trainee pharmacists in all four countries of the UK.

‘Each assessment had to be carried out simultaneously across the United Kingdom to ensure a fair and robust process.

‘We would like to congratulate the successful candidates and thank them for all their hard work and dedication in what continues to be a challenging time for health professionals.

He added: ‘There will be candidates who unfortunately did not pass, and we understand they will be disappointed by this news. We hope that they will use the guidance we have produced to help them with their next steps and understand their options.’

PSNI chief executive and interim registrar, Trevor Patterson, also congratulated the successful candidates.

He said he was ‘delighted’ that the four-country common registration assessment ‘has been successfully and safely delivered during the ongoing pandemic and we are grateful to colleagues in the GPhC for their support and assistance in Northern Ireland.’

In April, GPhC announced the 88% pass rate for first online registration assessment.

Some students faced issues when trying to book an exam sitting at a test centre in February, with some left facing a 100-mile trip to sit the assessment and others discovering that an afternoon sitting they had booked did not exist.

The GPhC has since apologised for the challenges faced by students and announced a series of actions it was taking to address the issues, including securing additional test centre places in Scotland.