About the Guidance

The Guidance for Professional Practice helps you to put your patients’ interests first, and work in partnership with them to provide the best possible care. It is the College’s view of good practice, not ‘best practice’ or ‘gold standard practice’, and sets out what is expected of optometrists.

This 2023 edition of the Guidance, themed ‘Good Practice Better Care’ contains new sections on myopia management, remote and virtual consultations and collaborative care pathways. Substantive updates have been made to the recording and administration of eye drops, the duty of an optometrist to be responsible for the interpretation and assimilation of all clinical findings required to conclude the eye examination and clinical terms in the appendices to reflect an optometrists widening scope of clinical practice. Every section is checked against changes in legislation and the latest evidence, to make sure the guidance is up to date and continues to enable optometrists to put their patients’ interests first. 

The Guidance is relevant to owner practitioners, partners, employees, locums, or pre-registration optometrists, and is useful for students learning about professionalism. It applies in all work environments, including multiples, independent practices and hospitals, and to both NHS and privately-funded services. The Guidance does not change what you must do under the law or your contract and the different sections of the Guidance do not exist in isolation.

The sections on Safety and QualityCommunication, Partnership and Teamwork, and Maintaining Trust underpin the advice given in the Knowledge, Skills and Performance section. When consulting the Guidance, you may, want to read the section Examining patients with learning disabilities together with the section Consent, or read the section The routine eye examination (‘sight test’) with the section Partnership with patients. There are also some patients who fall into more than one category, for example, patients with diabetes or learning disabilities who need a domiciliary eye examination.

The Guidance is there to support you in making clinical decisions. You may decide that specific circumstances mean that, in your professional judgement, you need to take a different course of action. This is fine as long as you can justify that action.

General Optical Council’s Standards of Practice for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians

The Guidance is based on the GOC’s Standards of Practice for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians, and is there to support you in putting those standards into practice.

You should familiarise yourself with the GOC’s standards, and think about how our guidance and the standards interrelate. For example, you should always recognise and work within your limits of competence and keep your knowledge and skills up to date. Similarly, while the GOC’s standard Communicate effectively with your patients obviously matches our section Communication, partnership and teamwork, it also applies, together with all other patient related standards, to the Knowledge, skills and performance section of our Guidance.


We use:

  • must where you have a legal or regulatory obligation to follow the Guidance
  • should where we would normally expect you to follow that course of action. If your professional judgement leads you to take a different action, you must be able to justify that action.

CPD resources

We have a range of online learning resources, including webinars as well as courses on glaucoma, AMD and independent prescribing, available on our website: learning.college-optometrists.org.

DOCET produces material for all registered optometrists. This includes live CPD, video and audio libraries of courses on many different topics and peer discussion material. docet.info.

Clinical advisers

Our clinical advisers are here to provide a prompt answer to all your clinical and professional questions. You can contact them using the form on our website, email or phone. 

Clinical adviser case files

These popular monthly emails test your professional knowledge with an anonymised ‘real life’ query received by the clinical advisers, together with their response. These complement our large selection of ethical scenarios in helping members to apply the Guidance in practice.

Peer Discussions

You can use our peer discussion case studies to discuss how you should approach different situations that could occur in your daily practice with your colleagues. 

Higher qualifications

College higher qualifications are available in contact lens practice, glaucoma, low vision, medical retina and paediatric eye care. 

Library services

All College members have free access to e books, journals and certain databases via the College library.

If you need a different format

If you need the Guidance in a large print format, or as a PDF document for expert witness work please email adviser@college-optometrists.org.

When the Guidance will be updated

We currently update the Guidance every three years and it is next scheduled for publication in autumn 2026. Only significant changes will be published in the meantime and we will communicate these changes to our members.

Expert review group

This 2023 version, the 4th edition of the Guidance for Professional Practice, was overseen by a task and finish expert review group and was subject to a six-week public consultation prior to publication. The College is grateful to everyone who responded to the public consultation; in many cases, the feedback contributed to the final draft. Finally, The College would like to thank the individuals and organisations who contributed their expertise and considerable time to producing this update. 

Katie Engel LLB (Lay advisory panel member)

Council Member Representatives
Dr David Hill MCOptom (Council member, Eastern)
Stephen Clark MCOptom (Council member, North East)
Kathryn Trimmer MCOptom (Council member, Scotland) 
Jagdeep Singh MCOptom (Council member, West midlands) 

Stakeholder Expert Representatives
Max Halford FBDO (ABDO)
Dr Peter Hampson MCOptom (AOP)
Samiriah Shaikh MCOptom (Early career optometrist)
Andrew Bridges MCOptom / Claire Slade MCOptom (FODO)
Rebecca Chamberlain (GOC observer)
Jill Campbell MCOptom (Optometry Northern Ireland)
Eilidh Thomson MCOptom (Optometry Scotland)
Sharon Beatty MCOptom (Optometry Wales) 
Raj Mehta (Patient representative) 

College staff
Daniel Hardiman-McCartney MBE FCOptom (Lead Clinical Adviser)
Denise Voon MCOptom (Clinical Adviser)
Dr Paramdeep Bilkhu MCOptom (Clinical Adviser)
Tanya Malick (Digital Content Manager)
Mel Piece (Copy proofing)

Version control

4th Edition published on Monday, 11 December 2023

Review and consultation period: 1 February 2023 to 4 October 2023

Available for beta testing: from 30 November 2023

Next due for review: 1 February 2026