COVID-19 and the Scheme for Registration

Announcements regarding COVID-19 and the Scheme for Registration

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Contents

Updates and announcements
COVID-19 and the Scheme for Registration
Covid-19 FAQs for Trainees
FAQs for trainees sponsored by the College on a Tier 5 visa

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Updates and announcements

10 September 2020: Stage Two update

Stage Two assessments for pre-registration trainees can begin from Friday 11 September. If you have completed all of your Stage One assessments, and have been signed off in all 75 competences, you will now be able to begin Stage Two.

We will prioritise assessments for those who completed Stage One assessments before 18 March.

The modified Stage two assessment
The modified Stage Two assessment is in two parts: the overarching assessment and the direct observation assessment. These parts will not necessarily be on the same day, or be carried out by the same assessor.

The overarching assessment will be based on a set of pre-written case scenarios and will be carried out remotely by an assessor. These case scenarios are available to everyone online.

The direct observation assessment will take place in practice and will involve a modified eye examination and contact lens assessment.

If you have completed Stage One assessments and been signed off in all 75 competencies, read our full guidance on how the modified Stage Two assessments will work.

Next steps
If you are ready for your Stage Two assessment, complete this form. You will need to provide information about your practice, so make sure that you discuss this with your supervisor and/or practice director or manager first.

If you are able to resume Stage Two assessments, you will receive your dates from the College by email, and be given at least two weeks to prepare.

Read our remote Stage Two guidance carefully.

 

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27 August 2020: Update for current pre-registration trainees

Scheme extension
We can confirm that all trainees enrolled on the Scheme when we stopped assessments in March, will receive a six month extension to their allotted time.

Stage two update
Thank you to all Stage two trainees for your patience while we work out the complexities of restarting assessments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve been working hard to balance the need to restart Stage two as quickly as possible with the need to ensure that our high qualification standards are upheld.

We will launch Stage two assessments within the next two weeks with the first assessments taking place mid-September.  We are training assessors this week in preparation for the changes.

Stage two has been split into two parts. There will be a remote Stage two overarching visit, which will be in a similar format to the remote Stage one visits. Rather than being based on patient records, it will be based on a bank of specially-written case scenarios that you will be able to access before your visit.

There will also be a direct observation of a streamlined eye exam and contact lens aftercare. We will still assess all competencies, while ensuring that College guidance on practising during the pandemic is respected. We are talking to your employers about how we can send assessors and patients into your practices for this part of the assessment. We are also talking to universities, who could potentially host those of you who can’t access a practice, or can’t host a visit in your own practice.

All of this work requires agreement and thorough risk assessments, as well as extensive planning for areas that re-enter local lockdowns, or practices who can’t host visits at short notice. As soon as this is complete, we will release guidance for you and your supervisors, so that you can prepare for Stage two assessments.

Those who have had one or no Stage one visits

We know this has been a particularly difficult and frustrating time for you. We weren’t able to offer you remote Stage one visits, as visit two normally involves direct observation and the signing off of patient experience, neither of which are possible under COVID-19 restrictions.

Today you may have seen the news that all trainees enrolled on the Scheme will receive a six month extension. We understand that we may need to extend your time even further, given your particular situation.

The College submitted a proposal to the GOC which would allow you to progress, while ensuring standards are upheld. We have now received the GOC’s response, and are working hard to get approval for our recommendations. As you can appreciate, this vital process takes a significant amount of time to complete, but please be assured that we have been working on this since March, and will update with further news as soon as we can.

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27 August 2020: Update on the 2020/21 Scheme for Registration

We can now confirm that you and your supervisor will be able to register for the Scheme in September. Registering will allow you to start practising under supervision, and working toward your patient episode requirements. The assessment visit programme for 2020/21 will not start until later in 2020.

For those graduates who have been told that their placement won’t begin until later in 2020, or until the beginning of 2021, we have developed a transition programme, Preparing for Pre-reg, alongside your universities and employers, to help you maintain your skills.

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21 July 2020: Update for trainees

We have received notice from the GOC that remote Stage One assessments for pre-registration trainees can begin from Monday 27 July 2020. This only applies to trainees on Stage One of the Scheme, who had already completed at least two visits before lockdown.

If you have been furloughed, or you have recently become unemployed, you will still be able to complete your remaining Stage One assessments.

 

Next steps
If you are a Stage One trainee who has completed at least two visits:

  • Your assessor will contact you within the next seven days to discuss your current situation, and whether you are able to resume assessments. If you have any exceptional circumstances, please inform them at this point. Note that this call will not be an assessment. 
  • If you are able to resume assessments, your assessor will set a date with you that gives you at least two weeks to prepare. 
  • You will need to read our new Stage One remote assessment guidance.

New Stage One evidence
You need to be aware of two new pieces of evidence required in Stage One, in order to make remote assessment possible. These are Witness Testimony and Reflective Account. Please see our new remote assessment guidance for more information on these, and other aspects of remote Stage One assessment.

Restarting the Scheme for other trainees
We are working hard to resume the Scheme for Stage One trainees who have not completed two visits, Stage Two trainees, and those who are yet to enrol. The September OSCE is still due to take place. These aspects of the Scheme require some face-to-face elements, and we are finalising ways that they can be assessed safely. We are working on this as a priority, and will inform you on changes as soon as we can.  

Remote assessment Instagram Q&A
We had a remote assessment Q&A via Instagram on Wednesday 29 July. Watch the recording below:

 

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3 July 2020: Scheme for Registration update

Today we have updated the FAQs below for trainees and their supervisors on the scheme, along with a video providing further information for trainees who are back in practice.

While we await full GOC approval we want to reassure trainees that they will still be able to continue on the Scheme and undertake assessments in the meantime.

We understand there are worries, frustrations and questions so we hope that our FAQs and video will help support you while we continue to work with the GOC.

The latest guidance and information is available on our COVID-19 page and on our social media channels.

Watch our video

 

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Introduction 

We understand that this is a very difficult and fast-changing situation for everyone. Throughout the pandemic we have worked to:

  • support trainees, supervisors and assessors at this difficult time
  • make appropriate adaptations to how trainees can progress through the Scheme and demonstrate fulfilment of Scheme requirements, without compromising education and professional standards
  • minimise disruption and delays to trainees’ progression through the Scheme and their contribution to patient care and service delivery
  • arrange extensions to allotted time on the Scheme for trainees affected by these exceptional circumstances.  

All trainees, supervisors and assessors should follow College guidance on practising during the COVID19 pandemic.

Modified assessment arrangements

We have outlined the College’s modified assessment arrangements for the Scheme for Registration below:  

  • All trainees have had their allotted time on the Scheme automatically extended by 6 months.
  • Stage One and Stage Two visits have resumed for all trainees who enrolled on the Scheme before 31 May 2019 and had had at least two Stage One visits before 18 March.
  • The September OSCE ran successfully under social distancing between 11 and 21 September. 
  • Optometry graduates who did not enrol on to the Scheme before 31 May 2019 can now register to start in practice, work under supervision, and begin to gain the experience they need for the assessments ahead of their formal launch.
  • All trainees starting out in practice can access our Preparing for Pre-registration resource to support them during their first days in practice.
  • Trainees who have not completed their HES experience as part of Stage One can access our Virtual HES experience.
Next steps

We know that there is still work to do. Our next steps are as follows:

  • Following the September OSCE, we have carefully reviewed the feasibility of running an additional final assessment this year. We have considered several factors, including the number of trainees who would be ready to sit an OSCE in December, the availability of examiners and other resourcing issues, the status of all regions and UK nations in the context of Covid-19, and the safety of all involved. We believe that holding a final assessment before Christmas, which relies on candidates and examiners travelling from across the UK, would not be in the spirit of current Covid-related restrictions, guidance and uncertainties. We are actively working on plans for a January OSCE that can be delivered in the safest way possible. We will share planned dates and deadlines for OSCE 2021 sittings shortly, but the January OSCE is planned for 25 January 2021 to 9 February 2021, with the deadline for entry the 18 December 2020.
  • We are working to finalise new patient encounter requirements and more flexible supervision arrangements, following the GOC’s approval of temporary changes to their handbook.
  • We now have sign-off for the changes we have made to the Scheme for those enrolled in 2019/20 who were at an early point in Stage 1 in March 2020. We will share more information on arrangements very shortly, and recognise this is a priority.’
  • We are  working with the GOC and stakeholders to finalise the assessment arrangements for trainees who have registered to start practising under supervision since 1 September 2020.
Further information 

We will provide regular updates and alerts on significant changes or developments, and have developed the FAQs below to answer common queries about the Scheme

If you have specific queries that are not answered here, please contact us: education.help@college-optometrists.org.

Updated: 21 September 2020

COVID-19 FAQs for Trainees

Below is some more detailed information on Scheme arrangements that responds to questions and queries we have received from trainees and supervisors. We will update these FAQs to respond to new queries and provide updates on arrangements that we put in place. 

General

Why have changes to the Scheme taken so long to confirm and why has is it taken so long for assessments to restart?

We understand how frustrating this has been. Up to now, the Scheme has been based on a programme of face-to-face assessments involving assessors directly observing trainees.

As part of our work to restart the assessments, we have had to factor in the impact of COVID-19 on the practicalities of practice and changing testing regimes on supervision, on patients, on hospitals, and on the government’s advice on social distancing. It is a complex and constantly evolving situation.

In order to deliver the best outcome for students and trainees, we have been working with universities and employers to ensure the changes proposed to the GOC are practical and robust. This work has been happening as quickly as possible, but it takes time to identify the range of issues and potential solutions that would work across different settings and are fair to all trainees.

Updated: 21 September 2020

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Stage one FAQs 

Watch our Instagram Q&A

We answer the most frequently asked questions on Stage one of the Scheme for Registration. 

 

Updated: 21 September 2020

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Stage two FAQs

Watch our Instagram Q&A

We answer the most frequently asked questions on Stage two of the Scheme for Registration. 

 

Updated: 21 September 2020

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Can I have access to notes during my Stage Two overarching assessment?

This is an open book exam and you are permitted to access reference material such as notes and other resources.

You must not, however, collude with anyone to complete this assessment or use any other unfair means in an attempt to enhance performance.

Updated: 30 October 2020

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OSCE FAQs

When will the next OSCE take place?

Following the September OSCE, we have carefully reviewed the feasibility of running an additional final assessment this year. We have considered several factors, including the number of trainees who would be ready to sit an OSCE in December, the availability of examiners and other resourcing issues, the status of all regions and UK nations in the context of Covid-19, and the safety of all involved. We believe that holding a final assessment before Christmas, which relies on candidates and examiners travelling from across the UK, would not be in the spirit of current Covid-related restrictions, guidance and uncertainties. We are actively working on plans for a January OSCE that can be delivered in the safest way possible. We will share planned dates and deadlines for OSCE 2021 sittings shortly, but the January OSCE is planned for 25 January 2021 to 9 February 2021, with the deadline for entry the 18 December 2020.

Updated: 1 November 2020

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What changes have been made to the OSCEs due to COVID-19?

We have reduced the number of candidates on circuit, and reduced the number of circuits per day  to meet social distancing requirements. Candidates must also wear PPE and anyone displaying symptoms, or who has come into contact with someone displaying symptoms, will not be allowed to attend the OSCE.

Updated: 21 September 2020

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Patient experience FAQs 

Will I still need to meet the patient experience requirements of 350 refractions, 250 dispenses, 20 contact lens fits, 40 contact lens aftercares, and the RGP fits and aftercares?

You will need to have logged the GOC requirement of 350 refractive examinations, 200 dispenses and 30 contact lens episodes (these can be fits or aftercares). However, rather than having to complete these numbers by the end of Stage One,  you will have until you complete the OSCE to log these numbers.

Following the GOC’s recent consultation on temporary changes to their handbook, there will be some changes to the numbers that trainees enrolling after 1 September will be required to gain – we will confirm these changes as soon as we can.

Updated: 21 September 2020

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Can remote consultations or triaging count towards my patient numbers?

We recognise that the triaging of appointments may be necessary during lockdown periods and can be extremely valuable clinical experience. Triaging patients will help your clinical development and be useful preparation for the OSCE.

The current requirements for numbers do not include triaging. However, we encourage you to keep a log of all patients encounters, as these may contain useful learning that you can draw upon during assessments visits. 

Updated: 21 September 2020

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When is it safe for a pre-registration trainee to be carrying out routine eye examinations?

Watch this video for advice for trainees and supervisors who are back in practice.

 

Updated: 21 September 2020

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Do I need to continue filling out my logbook until I have passed Stage Two, even though I have achieved the required patient numbers?

Once you have achieved the required patient numbers in all sections, you now do not need to continue maintaining your logbook until you have achieved Stage Two.
 
We recommend that you do continue recording any patients that give you a greater breadth of experience – for example, a patient you have referred, a complex dispensing, a challenging refraction or contact lens fit. You could also record a day where you have seen 12-15 patients, to demonstrate good clinical management skills.

Updated: 30 October 2020

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Supervision FAQs

I have returned to practice but my supervisor has not. Can I use more than my 30 days of temporary supervision to continue testing?

Due to the exceptional nature of COVID-19, you will be entitled to an additional 15 days of temporary supervision on top of the 30 days you have had since the start of your Scheme year.

Updated: 21 September 2020

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You have previously mentioned that supervisor requirements will be made flexible. When will these changes be announced?

Our new requirements are being finalised. We will share these, along with plans for the rest of the 2020/21 Scheme, as soon as we can. 

Updated: 21 September 2020

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Working arrangements FAQs

I have returned to practice. What can and can’t I do?

All supervisors and trainees should follow the College’s guidance and any local guidance applicable to your area. Watch this video for advice for trainee and supervisors. 

 

Updated: 21 September 2020

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I no longer have a pre-registration position. Can I continue with assessments?

All trainees who have had at least visit two will be able to continue with Stage One assessments whether or not they are able to access a practice. This will not, however, be compulsory, and it is up to each trainee to decide whether or not they feel in a position to resume assessments. 

For Stage Two assessments, trainees must be in regular employed practice.

Updated: 21 September 2020

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I am currently not working and don’t want to resume assessments. Can I refuse? Will I be disadvantaged if I do?

If a trainee has exceptional circumstances that prevents them from restarting the Scheme, they can opt out of the modified assessment arrangements within the first six weeks of Stage One restarting. The guidance on Stage One assessments has more information on this.

Updated: 21 September 2020

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What are the minimum hours of testing each week? What are the minimum hours of placement per week?

We have temporarily removed the minimum hours for testing for pre-registration trainees. All trainees who have had at least visit two will be able to continue with the Scheme for Registration, whether or not they are able to access a practice. This will not, however, be compulsory, and it is up to each  trainee to decide whether or not they feel in a position to resume assessments.

Updated: 21 September 2020

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You have previously mentioned that patient episode requirements will change. What will these changes be? Why won’t they be applied to current trainees?

Our new requirements are currently being finalised. We will share these, along with plans for the rest of the 2020/21 Scheme as soon as we can.

Updated: 21 September 2020

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20/21 Scheme Year FAQs

My supervisor wants more information on the 2020/21 Scheme before confirming my place. When will this information be available?

Our proposals are under consideration and we will share these, as soon as we can. You can still start in practice and practise under supervision by registering here.

Updated: 21 September 2020

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Other FAQs

What are the arrangements for current trainees completing an integrated master's course?

We realise that many trainees on integrated courses haven’t reached visit two and so won't be eligible to resume remote assessment visits at the moment. This is due to the lower number of competencies and patient episodes numbers they had achieved when assessments were suspended. We are working on specific plans to support these trainees and will be in touch with them separately on arrangements.

Updated: 21 September 2020

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Will trainees who are already Dispensing Opticians or Contact Lens Opticians be exempt from the dispensing and contact lens competencies?

Trainees who are already DOs or CLOs are already exempt from the requirement to have logged 250 (now 200) dispenses whilst on the Scheme. However, the College, under its accreditation from the GOC, is required to assess all 75 core competencies for optometry for all trainees and so these trainees must still demonstrate their competence while on the Scheme.

Updated: 21 September 2020

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Updated: 21 September 2020

FAQs for trainees sponsored by the College on a Tier 5 visa

Where can I find up-to-date guidance?

UKVI has a webpage for guidance, this is updated regularly.

Specific queries can be posted to the following email address: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk 

There is also a Coronavirus Immigration Helpline – Tel. 0800 678 1767.

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Can I register on the Scheme whilst waiting for my Tier V GAE visa application to be approved?

In line with UK government advice, you can register to start on the Scheme ahead of receiving an outcome to your current visa application, providing that you:

  • Hold a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from the College or another appropriate body
  • Submitted your application for a new visa before a previous visa expired and can provide evidence of this
  • The job you are starting is line with what is listed on your CoS (if the certificate is issued by the College, this is specifically to be employed as a pre-registration optometry trainee and to meet the admission criteria required for enrolment on the College’s Scheme for Registration)
  • Stop working in the job listed on your CoS if your current application for a visa is rejected as invalid or is refused.

Please check the UK government website regularly for more detailed, up-to-date information.

If you require individual advice on your immigration status, you are advised to seek independent legal advice. The above information is intended to form general information only, and should not to be construed as constituting legal advice to you as an individual.

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Updated: 22 October 2020

 

 

 

 

 

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