This summer’s pass rate for the common registration assessment for pharmacists was the lowest since 2020, according to figures released today.

Just over three-quarters (77%) of the 2,805 candidates passed the assessment held in June by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The 2023 pass rate was below the five-year average and the lowest since 2020, when exams were delayed due to the pandemic and just 72% of candidates passed the registration exam.

Last summer, 80% of candidates passed the exam, compared to 82% in 2021, 72% in 2020, 79% in 2019 and 78% in 2018.

Disruption to the examination last June led to protests from trainee pharmacists, who called on the GPhC to drop the grade boundaries ‘to reflect the difficulty of the exam’, not count the exam as an attempt to pass for those who failed and ‘provide solutions’ for trainees who were sitting the exam for the third time or whose sitting limit had run out.

GPhC and PSNI chief executives apologised for the disruption last summer, with PSNI chief executive Trevor Patterson assuring candidates that ‘steps are being taken to ensure learnings from the assessment are applied.’

This summer the exam appeared to go smoothly. The pass rate was highest among first time sitters, with 79% of the 2,353 candidates taking the exam for the first time passing the registration.

Just half of the 229 candidates taking the exam for the second time passed, while 59% of the 99 candidates on their third attempt passed the registration.

GPhC director of education and standards, Mark Voce, congratulated the successful candidates on passing the registration assessment, saying: ‘We look forward to them joining our register and wish them well for the future.’

He added: ‘The assessment is one of the main ways we test that trainees can demonstrate they understand how to apply knowledge and are able to make professional judgements in pharmacy practice. This is fundamental in assuring patients and the public that they are in safe hands.

‘Unfortunately, there will be candidates who did not pass the assessment, and we understand this can be a difficult time for them.’

And he pointed to GPhC information that outlines all the options available to candidates who did not pass the registration, including the independent charity, Pharmacist Support, which offers mental health and wellbeing support.

Successful candidates in England, Scotland and Wales can take the next steps with their registration on the GPhC website, where there is also a form available for those qualifying in Northern Ireland.