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 Guidance provides the foundations of practice; however we also advise that you should regularly review your nation’s infection prevention control guidance and our Frequently Asked Questions to ensure you remain up to date. 

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 .

This 2022 edition of the Guidance contains new sections remote consultations, public health emergencies and updates to the sections on personal protective equipment and masks to provide the best support for your clinical, professional and ethical decisions.

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 by 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 ethical scenarios in helping members to apply the Guidance in practice.

Ethical Scenarios

Our online ethical scenarios are designed to help you apply the Guidance to your everyday 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, email info@college-optometrists.org.

When the Guidance will be updated

We currently update the Guidance every three years. Only significant changes will be published in the meantime and we will communicate these changes to our members. Please note that this edition of the Guidance should be used alongside the College’s COVID-19 Guidance until advised otherwise.