Locum or portfolio optometrist

The sheer variety, flexibility and unpredictability of the role of a locum or portfolio optometrist is what people seem to enjoy the most. It is not a nine to five career choice.

Job roles

  • Clinical adviser
  • Optometrist
  • Specialist role – paediatric eye care, contact lens care or dry eye
  • Trainer.

Working as a locum or portfolio optometrist

Those working as a locum may be employed part-time or work as self-employed contractors. They generally work with a number of practices, and work flexibly to cover leave, which could be either short- or long-term. Portfolio optometrists will have a range of other roles in addition to working in a practice part-time, such as training, teaching, writing and assessing.

Working as a locum or portfolio optometrist might take time to build up whilst you develop contacts or find locum agencies for which you prefer to work. Many locums will have worked in a variety of settings, including hospitals, independent and multiple practices before becoming self-employed. Having a range of experience to draw on will give you confidence in new or different workplaces.

Advantages of working as a locum

All kinds of people are attracted to being a locum including those who have parenting or caring responsibilities, optometrists who work for an academic institution and those with other outside interests. The key factors are that you need to be flexible and a self-starter to enjoy this varied role.

Sarah Dawson MCOptom Prof Cert Glauc Prof Cert LV

Portfolio optometrist

My role

"In my current job I do one day in practice and I provide holiday cover for a range of practices that I regularly work with, including a multiple and some independent practices.

Prinal Patel MCOptom

Portfolio working

Being a locum need not mean you are doing eye examinations all day for a practice. Where you build up a longer-term relationship with practices you might be involved in delivering clinics on dry eye or providing orthokeratology services. You will also need to be decisive. You will be working in a variety of settings with a range of practices and rules, yet you will often need to use your own judgement to deal with situations as they arise.

Increasingly, portfolio optometrists have significant responsibilities, perhaps delivering local community eye care schemes in partnership with GPs and working with the College as an examiner or assessor or with other professional bodies or CPD providers.

Training and qualifications

  • Clinical and patient management skills and topics, such as AMD, cataracts, contact lenses, glaucoma, orthokeratology, and using OCT equipment and interpreting results
  • Communication skills
  • Small business management skills.

Training and development will usually be down to locum and portfolio optometrists to arrange and pay for themselves. These include:

  • clinical conferences and workshops
  • local optical committees or universities.

College events help you learn, network and gain CPD points. We have a blended programme of both online and in-person events which include: Optometry Tomorrow - our annual national conference and exhibition; peer reviews; webinars; CPD events tailored to Independent Prescribers; and much more.

Online learning, using College and Docet materials can be an efficient way of keeping your skills up-to-date, as well as earning CPD points. The College offers training for assessor, examiner and supervisor roles.