The GPhC Council will meet this week to discuss issues over registration exam delays and the difficulty of the calculations paper raised by protestors yesterday (13 July).

A group of pharmacy trainees, led by pharmacist and tutor Marvin Munzu, called for a series of measures - including that the recent exam sitting should not count as one of three attempts for candidates who failed - at a protest outside GPhC headquarters at 25 Canada Square in London at 11am.

The protest was held immediately following a meeting between Mr Munzu and a delegation of four trainees with GPhC CEO Duncan Rudkin and GPhC director of education Mark Voce.

The GPhC has now told The Pharmacist that the requests raised by the protestors will be discussed at a Council meeting this week, with plans to issue an update to all exam candidates next week.

Speaking to The Pharmacist at the protest, Mr Munzu said GPhC were ‘very receptive’ during the meeting and shared ideas with the delegation ‘on how to improve the situation’.

He added: ‘We’ll have to see what they decide, but it was a good reception and it was a good meeting and hopefully something positive will come out of it.’

The GPhC has already issued several statements detailing actions on remedying issues raised since the registration exam sitting on 29 June.

This includes allowing provisional registration for candidates who faced delays and ‘procedural issues’ - such as significant tehcnical problems or other major disruption during the sitting - as well as a full refund and for the sitting not to count as an attempt.

However, Mr Munzu said the actions from the GPhC had ‘mainly’ addressed delays and some technical issues, but ‘our aim today was to show them that it was not just the delays that were key issues’.

He added: ‘People talking, systems freezing and people not able to click on the system... All of these issues affect a lot of trainees and affect their performance. They did accept that they are going to investigate all these issues and they did say they are willing to have more conversations with us.’

‘One paper is separating us’

The protest had three main requests of the GPhC:

  1. For any trainee who fails the 29 June sitting, the sitting should not count towards their total number of failed attempts.
  2. Issues raised by trainees other than ‘severe delays’ that affected their performance should be accepted as grounds to appeal if the results of the investigations confirm these issues.
  3. Trainees should only repeat the specific paper they failed for the June exam.

Some members of the protest group addressed the crowd, with many of them calling for a blueprint of exam papers so trainees can properly prepare for exams and expressing frustrations over a ‘difficult’ calculations paper that Mr Munzu said he felt that many qualified pharmacists would fail.

Speakers included Issam Hussain who was a fully qualified pharmacist in Iraq but is undertaking the course in the UK to be qualified here too.

At the protest, Mr Hussain explained to The Pharmacist that ‘every single question’ in the calculations paper was long and difficult, and that the pressures of the exams meant he has not seen much of his family including his three children – who are also in the UK – and fears failing would extend this.

Another trainee called for a blueprint of exam papers that trainees can follow, amid reports of a difficult calculations paper, explaining: ‘We were given an exam that we were never exposed to.’

A third trainee told the protest: ‘The only thing that’s separating us is one paper. We are more than qualified to be pharmacists... The fact that we met with pharmacists today shows they know that the pharmacists here are the most important that will be in this country because we’re making a change.’

‘Powerful first-hand accounts’

In a statement to The Pharmacist, GPhC CEO Duncan Rudkin said: ‘We very much appreciate a delegation of candidates who took part in the protest, led by Marvin Munzu, coming into the GPhC to meet with the Director of Education, Mark Voce, and myself.

‘They shared dignified and powerful first-hand accounts of the problems they had when sitting the registration assessment. These accounts are extremely valuable in helping us continue to build our understanding of candidates’ experiences, and appreciating the impact these are having.

‘We felt the meeting was constructive, with the delegation clearly setting out their requests on behalf of all candidates taking part in the protest.

‘We will be discussing these requests with our Council this week and will be in touch with the delegation to update them on our response. We are planning to provide a further update to all candidates next week.’

As well as delays and technical issues, trainees have also flagged concerned around a difficult calculations paper; inadequate invigilation; insufficient breaks between papers; examination rooms being unfit for purpose; confusion over the use of calculators; and reasonable adjustments agreed for candidates with disabilities not being provided.