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Home  »   Latest News   »   PDA hears distressing accounts of the June 2022 Assessment from trainee and potential pharmacists

PDA hears distressing accounts of the June 2022 Assessment from trainee and potential pharmacists

Members supported each other as they came together at a PDA network meeting on Thursday 8 July to share their experiences and concerns following the June 2022 Assessment.

Wed 13th July 2022 The PDA

The PDA has been inundated with enquiries from concerned members following the issues they experienced during the 29 June assessment and is responding personally and as promptly as possible to provide tailored support. The online event was an opportunity for members to share their experiences and stories and to link up with others to form a support network.

The meeting was facilitated by Clare Hirst, PDA Union Organiser, and Collette Bradford, Director of Organising & Engagement, who clarified the position to date and answered questions.

Collette Bradford said,

“The PDA believes that members deserve much more than automated emails and social media posts when things go wrong, and therefore we welcome the communication from the GPhC to candidates. GPhC communications included more specific answers to the concerns that some members have raised since the examination day, including around the framework and the investigation into allegations regarding calculators and sharing of information from the exam. We also recognise the regulator’s response to concerns raised about this, by arranging listening groups and telephone calls to individuals who sat the assessment in the test centres where significant issues have been reported.

This has been a worrying time for those affected, and it is important to the PDA that members feel supported and well informed about their options. Each member that has contacted the PDA will receive personal contact from a member of the team. The online event last week gave members the opportunity to meet some of the PDA team and to have their questions answered. Members should not underestimate the value of ‘seeing’ and hearing each other and being part of a wider network of support when times are challenging and uncertain.”

All the feedback from members at the meeting will be collated and shared with the GPhC, it is already making a difference to the official response to the cohort. It is also important for members to write down their experiences whilst they are fresh in their mind as it is valuable information which will be required should they be unsuccessful and wish to appeal.”

The PDA believes that this situation should never have happened. Many of the concerns candidates shared included technical, organisational, and training issues that could have been foreseen through previous experiences. It is also disappointing that BTL, who were awarded the contract to run the assessment on behalf of the GPhC and PSNI have had the full benefit of hindsight from issues with previous sittings, appear not to have taken the potential learnings into account or put contingency plans in place. It would also appear from some candidates that the software is not as user-friendly or as intuitive as it could be. Evidently hotel chains are highly unsuitable and not ‘fit for purpose’ as test centre venues for high-stakes exams.

The PDA also welcomed Riven Seamarks, Service Deliver Officer from the charity Pharmacist Support, who led a session on strategies to manage anxiety which may help some candidates.

Paul Day, PDA Director who chairs the PDA Equality Council meetings said,

“Trainees and potential pharmacists who have been allocated a reasonable adjustment by the regulator should expect to receive them whether that be additional time, a separate space, or other adjustment. Reasonable adjustments are agreed to ensure that all candidates have a fair and equal opportunity, regardless of any disability, to sit the exam and to perform at their best. Yet, for some members the stress of the exam experience has exacerbated health conditions.

The regulators have a duty to ensure that BTL implement reasonable adjustments and we expect every candidate allocated a reasonable adjustment, to have it implemented properly in the next sitting, to ensure that these candidates are not placed at a disadvantage. Failure to implement a reasonable adjustment might be considered disability discrimination and the PDA have significant experience in supporting members who have been subject to acts of discrimination.”


Provisional Register

The GPhC has since published the criteria for provisional registration which can be viewed here.

Provisional registration was the response to an unprecedented situation during a global pandemic when the whole of society was in extreme circumstances and an exam sitting was not possible. The provisional register was rightly closed at the beginning of this calendar year.

The management of an examination should not be such that it causes the regulator to need to consider reintroducing provisional registration. The PDA believes a second exam paper should have been readily available to implement as part of contingency planning soon after results are published.

Provisional registration may lead to a candidate being less attractive to some potential employers than if they had passed the exam in these circumstances.

The eligibility criteria for provisional registration also excludes resitters who failed the examination in a previous year and were expecting to pass this time, but who experienced identical issues as those taking the exam for the first time, on 29 June.


Next Steps

Fundamentally, if the regulators cannot guarantee they can get online examinations to work effectively, then consideration should be given to returning to a paper-based format until such time as they can guarantee an on the whole issue free, robust and fair online system. The PDA welcomes the establishment of a quality assurance committee by the GPhC and is committed to working across the range of stakeholders to ensure that the feedback from current and future trainees is considered and any learnings from this are acted upon.

The PDA is now considering how best to support candidates with individual, collective, or even class (legal) action. Candidates are advised to:

  • Register their concerns with the GPhC and the PDA
  • Contact their GP or Pharmacist Support  or in an emergency Samaritans with any health or wellbeing concerns
  • Write down an account of their experience
  • Look out for further updates from the GPhC
  • Await candidate results on 29th July
  • Contact the PDA if you are unsuccessful for advice and support on appeal.

Trainees share their experiences of the June 2022 Assessment

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