Eligible candidates 'severely impacted by delays' at the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) registration exam sitting last week will be offered provisional registration, the GPhC's Council has confirmed. 

Duncan Rudkin, GPhC's chief executive, said the organisation shares 'the sense of anger many have expressed about the severe delays some candidates sitting the registration assessment have experienced'.

On 29 June, just under 2,700 candidates sat the registration assessment in test centres across the UK, with some experiencing delays 'in starting either Paper 1 or Paper 2 due to IT or other technical issues at a small number of test centres in England', GPhC explained, adding that a 'majority of candidates were able to complete the assessment with no issues'. 

The GPhC said it is working with BTL, which runs the assessment sitting on behalf of the regulator, to 'rapidly investigate these delays', and held an emergency meeting on 1 July to 'urgently review the situation and what further measures could be put in place to support the affected candidates'.

The pharmacy regulator has already confirmed that candidates who experienced severe delays will have their assessment fees refunded in full, and 'the severe delay will be automatically accepted as grounds for appeal if they do not pass'. This means that if they do not pass the assessment, this sitting will not count as one of their attempts to pass. 

The Council has now agreed that the GPhC will 'offer provisional registration to candidates who were severely impacted by delays and so were not able to pass this sitting, providing they meet certain eligibility criteria'.

The GPhC said it will 'define the criteria of which candidates will be eligible for provisional registration and publish the criteria as soon as possible, so candidates know what their options are if relevant.'. 

Mr Rudkin said: 'Our primary focus now is on how best we can support and care for those affected. 

‘We believe an offer of provisional registration to the candidates who were severely impacted by delays is the right thing to do in terms of standards and the public interest, as well as going a long way to allaying candidates’ concerns about employment and income. 

'We also need to ensure we get to the bottom of the root causes so that we can understand how better to reduce the chance of future problems and protect future candidates, including those sitting the exam in November.'

Candidates provisionally registered will be able to remain on the provisional register from 1 August 2022 until 1 February 2023, 'to give them the opportunity to sit and pass the next sitting of the registration assessment on 3 November and to join the pharmacist register', the GPhC confirmed. 'This means that these candidates will be able to work as a provisionally-registered pharmacist while they wait for the next sitting. 

'The same criteria and guidance will apply as was in place previously for provisionally-registered pharmacists employed between July 2020 and January 2022. This includes employers carrying out risk assessments and providing senior pharmacist guidance and support during the period. 

'With those measures in place, provisionally registered pharmacists would be able to work as Responsible Pharmacists, where relevant.' 

The GPhC has also signposted the Listening Friend Peer Support Service for 'those who may find themselves in need of emotional support'.  The regulator explained that 'the peer support provides you with an opportunity to talk anonymously and in confidence about the stress you may be facing. Their trained volunteers do not provide advice, but they recognise the pressures of pharmacy practice and will offer you the time and space to talk through those issues to try and find clarity'.