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A Comprehensive Guide for Foreign Pharmacists to Practicing in the UK

Embarking on a journey to practice pharmacy in the United Kingdom is an exciting and rewarding endeavour. However, it requires careful planning and adherence to regulatory processes. This comprehensive guide aims to provide pharmacists with a step-by-step roadmap to navigate the process of practising pharmacy in the UK.

If you find yourself reading this article, you likely fall into one of the following categories:

  • Hold a European Economic Area (EEA) pharmacist qualification that is not considered a ‘relevant’ qualification, excluding a pharmacist qualification recognized in the UK.
  • Possess qualifications as a pharmacist obtained outside of the EEA.

Understanding the Regulatory Landscape

The best place to begin your journey is by familiarizing yourself with the regulatory bodies governing pharmacy practice in the UK. The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is the primary regulatory authority responsible for ensuring pharmacists meet the required standards.

As an international pharmacist aspiring to practice in the UK, your credentials must undergo evaluation by the GPhC. This involves the following steps:

  • Completion of the Overseas Pharmacists Assessment Programme (OSPAP)
  • Undertaking fifty-two (52) weeks of pre-registration training in England, Scotland, or Wales
  • Receiving a satisfactory endorsement from your tutor in the GPhC registration assessment with a passing result

An OSPAP Course

An Overseas Pharmacists Assessment Programme (OSPAP) is a post-graduate diploma program that lasts 12 months. It is offered by several universities in the UK including the following:

  • University of Brighton
  • Aston University
  • University of Hertfordshire
  • University of Sunderland
  • Kingston University

This course is uniquely curated to provide the necessary knowledge and training to prepare you to work as a pharmacist in the UK. It will also equip you to complete the mandatory 52-week pre-registration training.

You will sponsor your tuition fee and also support yourself during the study period.

Applying for an OSPAP Course

The GPhC will assess your qualifications and experience to determine your eligibility for an OSPAP course. You will fill and submit the ‘Applying for eligibility to complete an Overseas Pharmacists Assessment Programme (OSPAP) form’ provided by the GPhC. The application fee is about £687.00.

Here are some of the crucial prerequisites assessed by the GPhC:

  • Academic Equivalency: Your degree should be deemed comparable to a UK Bachelor’s degree, substantiated by a certificate issued by NARIC. You can visit their website for details on applying for a comparability certificate.
  • Practice License: Holding a valid practice license in your home country is mandatory.
  • References: Submission of both professional and academic references is required.
  • IELTS Score: Achieving a score of 7 across all components in a single IELTS sitting is necessary.
  • Pharmacy OET: Achieving a score of at least a B in each of the four areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking, in one sitting.
  • OSPAP Interview: Successfully passing an interview conducted by the OSPAP board (if invited).

Pre-Registration Training Placement

You will spend a minimum of 12 months in a GPhC-approved training site, under the supervision of a tutor. During this time, you will develop your practice to meet a range of performance standards. Your progress will be monitored and guided by your tutor. They will conduct progress reviews to verify your progress.

Both UK-qualified MPharm and overseas-qualified OSPAP students are required to successfully complete the pre-registration training placement to be eligible to sit the registration assessment and meet the criteria for registration.

How to Find a Training Placement

After completing your OSPAP, you will be eligible to begin your pre-registration training placement. It will be your responsibility to search for a suitable training placement and tutor. Once you have made the necessary arrangements, you will required to inform the GPhC through application for entry to the pre-registration scheme.

Passing the GPhC Registration Exam

The final step before full registration is passing the GPhC Registration Exam. This comprehensive exam assesses your knowledge and skills in pharmacy practice. Adequate preparation is essential, and there are resources available to help you navigate the exam successfully.

There are two (2) registration assessments per year – June and September. The assessment is made up of two question papers. You must pass both papers at one attempt but can have up to three attempts to pass the registration assessment. The assessment is carried out simultaneously in locations across the UK.

Full Registration and Licensing

Upon completing the pre-registration training and passing the GPhC Registration Exam, you’ll be eligible for full registration. This allows you to practice as a pharmacist in the UK. Additionally, you may be required to obtain a license to practice from the relevant UK health authority.

You will be required to apply for registration through the myGPhC online system. Your application has to be within four years from the date you began your OSPAP course.

By and large, practising pharmacy in the UK is a rewarding journey that demands careful planning and adherence to regulatory processes. By following this comprehensive guide, you can navigate the path to becoming a registered and licensed pharmacist in the UK successfully.

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