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Pre-reg delays 'could lead to crisis in NI pharmacies'

Community pharmacy representatives in Northern Ireland have warned that delays in allowing pre-registration students to join the workforce could lead to “another crisis” this summer as pharmacies battle Covid-19.

This follows the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland’s announcement on Friday May 1 that the registration exam would be moved from June to August at the earliest and that “having taken legal opinion” the PSNI was unable to place candidates on a temporary or provisional register as regulations demand that they must have completed 52 weeks' training and a final exam before being put on the register.

The 150 pre-registration students currently awaiting clarity on their future employment had been expected to join the pharmacy workforce this summer “at a time when extra capacity is needed,” Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland said.

In a May 4 statement, CPNI said that if the decision to reschedule the exam is not reversed “the sector will face another crisis”.

The PSNI says the new exam date of early August will be contingent upon Government advice on social gatherings at that time.

A spokesperson told Pharmacy Network News that if it is not possible to hold the exam in August, alternative dates or "methods of delivery" such as online assessment will be considered, with students notified of any changes by the end of July.

Minister asked to intervene

CPNI chief Gerard Greene said pharmacies “rely on this influx of newly registered pharmacists” every year and the delay would cause acute difficulties as pharmacies are “operating at a very limited capacity” during the pandemic.

Calling on health minister Robin Swann to intervene, Mr Greene added that the decision was “very different to what we have seen from our medical and nursing counterparts who immediately agreed to fast-track final year students and get them into the workforce so they could join frontline efforts to fight coronavirus”.

“We are calling on the Minister to intervene to get this decision reversed and allow pharmacy pre-registration exams to go ahead in June as normal.”

'Bitterly disappointing'

Pre-reg student Danielle Harkin said the PSNI’s decision was “bitterly disappointing”: “Given we have all already graduated, we would have expected our registration to be expedited rather than delayed.  Many of my fellow students feel the same sense of frustration.” 

“It is bitterly disappointing to think that we cannot join our healthcare colleagues on the frontline and we hope this decision can be reversed to allow us to get on the register and get to work.” 

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