3 June 2021

GOC approves extension of temporary changes to handbook

The GOC has approved an extension of temporary changes to their Optometry Handbook and Supervision policy

The General Optical Council (GOC) has approved an extension of changes to their Optometry Handbook and Supervision policy which will now continue until the 2022/23 academic year. The temporary adaptations the College has made to the Scheme for Registration due to COVID-19 have also been approved to continue until September 2022. See below for more details. 

The GOC have also approved an extension to the trailing competencies process that was introduced last year to support graduates to progress onto the Scheme. Universities have indicated that they are not expecting there to be large numbers of graduates who will need to use this process, but it will be important to the few who have been affected by COVID-19 related factors. This is subject to the conditions detailed below.

Stage 1 patient experience: Last year, the GOC amended and further defined the minimum number of patient episodes that students must achieve to obtain ‘an appropriate breadth of patient experience’ and broadened the types of experience that can be counted towards Stage 1 – including observation with formal reflection.  

Certificate of Clinical Competency (GOC stage 1): For students who graduated in summer 2018, the GOC granted an extension to the Stage 1 Certificate of Clinical Competence (which students receive upon successful completion of their undergraduate studies) to 31 December 2020. They continue to review whether this requirement can be removed in its entirety so that any decisions regarding the currency of learning will form part of a provider’s enrolment/admissions policy. 

Stage 2 patient experience: In Summer 2020 the GOC reduced the total number of GOC Stage 2 patient episodes that students must achieve by 10% and removed the categorised patient episode numbers. The provider must instead ensure that the student achieves an appropriate breadth of experience and set and justify its level of any minimum experience in specific areas of practice.  

Supervision policy: The GOC now permit non-GOC fully-qualified registrants to supervise students, if they meet our supervision criteria, are regulated, only supervise tasks that are within their professional scope of practice, and the education providers ensure that all other supervision requirements are met – including clarity about any role in patient episode or core competency ‘sign off’ that these supervisors may have. 

The changes we have made to the Scheme for Registration (SfR) in response to COVID-19 will continue for 2021-22 trainees. This means: 

  • Visits 1 and 2 at SfR Stage One will be delivered remotely, with visit 3 face-to-face in practice. Additional Stage One visits will either be remote or in-person, as advised by the assessor.
  • SfR Stage Two will be split between a face-to-face direct observation visit and a remote overarching competency visit.
  • The Hospital Eye Service experience can be completed either in person or remotely, using our virtual HES experience.
  • The OSCE will be delivered under social distancing.
  • Trainees will need to complete 520 patient episodes.
  • Trainees must nominate either a principal supervisor, or two joint supervisors, who have been qualified for at least two years, and are the listed supervisor for no more than two other trainees, and no more than one trainee at SfR Stage One.

The GOC has agreed to extend the process for trailing GOC Stage 1 competencies and patient episodes for students completing GOC Stage 1 of the route to registration in the 2020/21 academic year, subject to the conditions that: 

  • this extension is granted only to those students completing GOC Stage 1 of the route to registration in the 2020/21 academic year, i.e. those progressing to the Scheme for Registration in the 2021/22 academic year, as requested by The College of Optometrists on 17 May 2021; and
  • this extension is granted only to those students whose inability to meet GOC Stage 1 competency (and/or patient episode) requirements is caused by factors related to Covid; and
  • the process follows that proposed by the College of Optometrists and Optometry Schools Council on 22 May 2020 and agreed by the GOC’s Head of Education on 4 June 2020 (with information on data governance processes subsequently noted by the GOC on 18 June 2020).

Related further reading

For the very last issue of Optometry in Practice, Professor Jonathan Jackson MCOptom reflects on the past two decades of the journal and its contribution to our learning.

This paper describes how viruses infect, reproduce and damage cells. Knowing this process is critical for understanding how to treat ocular viral infections.