Covid-19 and the Scheme for Registration

30 April 2020: An updated announcement 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

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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12 June 2020: Update for trainees

We wanted to give you another update on our progress with the Scheme for Registration

We have made another submission to the GOC – this covers our proposals to restart remote assessment for stage one and overarching stage two competencies. We hope to be able to confirm these changes as soon as possible. Don’t worry, you will have plenty of notice on what the changes will mean for you, your supervisor and your employer. We will be providing you with guidance and videos to help you adjust.

We will be extending time for everyone currently on the Scheme. This will happen automatically, so you won’t need to contact us unless you have a specific issue that means you will have to be away from practice for longer (for example, you or someone in your family is shielding).

Future arrangements for the direct observation assessment in stage two and the OSCE remain subject to the government issuing further guidelines on social distancing. We will keep you updated on our progress with these aspects of the Scheme.

In the meantime we would urge you to think about activities you can undertake to maintain your skills while not in practice. We would recommend you access our online learning for courses to keep your knowledge and skills up-to-date. 

Watch our video: 

 

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12 June 2020: Update for final year students

We wanted to provide an update for final year students who are due to transition to the Scheme for Registration this year.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic mean new trainees won’t be able to start the Scheme for Registration until 1 September 2020. We are looking at how we can ensure flexibility around patient episodes, hours in practice and supervision with the GOC, and will update you as soon as we have news. 

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the way optometry is practised. We will continue to work with employers, universities and the GOC to make sure that the Scheme fits in with adapted practice. We will also ensure that you are able to meet the requirements of the Scheme, while keeping you, your colleagues and your patients as safe as possible. 

As we highlighted in the last update, the Scheme has always been, and will remain flexible, so that you can enrol and begin at any point. We also highlighted that we are developing bridging resources, which we hope will prepare students for practice life over the summer break. We will let you know when these are ready.

Watch our video: 

 

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26 May 2020: Update for trainees

We wanted to give another pre-registration trainee update on the Scheme for Registration. We understand how frustrating it is that changes to the Scheme are taking time to confirm.

Our aim in this video is to update you, as far as we can, on what we are doing to ensure that you can complete the Scheme and qualify with the experience and expertise you need to provide safe and effective eye care to your patients. The Scheme was originally designed to be a face-to-face assessment programme. The COVID-19 pandemic means that social distancing will remain necessary for some time, which will have a significant effect on the way optometry is practised in the near future. It means we need to make fundamental changes to how the Scheme is delivered and assessed to be compliant with government social distancing requirements. 

We need to be certain that the changes we make will continue to uphold professional standards and guarantee patient safety in optometry practice. For these reasons, confirming the exact changes to the Scheme will take time. We are working hard, alongside employers, universities and the GOC, to make this happen, and will make sure that you are kept updated with all developments, as soon as we are able.

We are also working in a rapidly changing environment – with new information coming from the government every day, and new planning emerging from the optical sector about how patient care can be safely delivered. So please bear in mind that what I’m about to tell you are plans, and these may need to change again as we continue to work closely with the GOC and employers, and respond to the latest government advice. 

We are doing our best to keep you informed at every stage - but please be aware that this information is not set in stone.  
We have completed a full audit of individual progress on the Scheme in stage one to inform our next steps. We have identified how assessment of the GOC competencies can be modified. This is taking account of current social distancing requirements and the College guidance on adapted practice. 

Stage One
With regards to those trainees currently undertaking stage one of the Scheme, we hope to allow some stage one visits to go ahead remotely next month. We’ll let you know as soon as we have more details.

Stage Two
Many of you have asked about arrangements for stage two and the OSCE. These are more challenging because they involve our assessors and examiners checking that you are safe to perform a range of practical examinations in a clinical setting. We are proposing that stage two assessments are carried out at an examination centre, where we can ensure the safety of trainees and patients, and be satisfied that all competences are achieved. This will be supplemented with an online exam to cover the overarching competencies. 

OSCE
As you know, the July OSCE has been cancelled. We are working on how we can deliver a September OSCE in a socially distanced way, but can’t set out the specifics until we have further guidance from the government on what will or won’t be possible. We are currently looking at emerging guidance from a range of experts on some solutions to running OSCE examinations in a COVID-19 compliant way. 

Next steps
We have now developed revised proposals that will enable you to demonstrate the knowledge and experience you need to examine patients unsupervised on completion of the Scheme. We have submitted these revised proposals to the GOC, and are working with them on the areas where more clarity or detail was requested.

I’m sorry that I can’t be more precise than this at the moment – but I hope that this update has been useful. We are working hard to progress and implement changes as soon as it is practical. 

Please be assured that we will share new information with you as soon as we are satisfied that it is accurate. We are aware there may be rumours about what is going on, but as the provider of the Scheme for Registration, we will let you know when we can confirm the details of how and when you can continue to make progress towards completing the Scheme.

Watch our video: 

 

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26 May 2020: Update for final year students

We wanted to give another student update on the Scheme for Registration. We understand how frustrating it is that changes to the Scheme are taking time to confirm.

The Scheme was originally designed to be a face-to-face assessment programme. The COVID-19 pandemic means that social distancing will remain necessary for some time. This is going to have a significant effect on the way optometry is practised in the near future. This also means fundamental changes need to how the Scheme is delivered and how assessment can safely occur and be compliant with government requirements.

We also need to be certain that the changes will continue to uphold professional standards and ensure patient safety in optometry practice. For these reasons, confirming the exact changes to the Scheme will take time. We are working hard, alongside employers, universities and the GOC, to make this happen and will make sure that you are kept updated with all developments.

We anticipate there will be a delay in some employers taking on a pre-registration student for the 2020-21 Scheme year. We are looking at developing resources for this summer’s university graduates to help with preparation for practice life and fill any potential gaps between graduation and enrolment on the Scheme. We will keep you updated on progress.

We are also aware that there is a common misconception that there are fixed enrolment dates for the Scheme. This is not the case. The Scheme has always been, and will remain, flexible. Pre-registration trainees can enrol on Scheme at any point in the year. We recognise that this flexibility is more important than ever in the current context, both for you as prospective trainees and for employers.

Finally, we have also worked with the Optometry Schools Committee to develop proposals that will enable you to carry over any outstanding GOC Stage one competencies or patient episodes you have not managed to get in the final stages of your university degree. This has been agreed in principle by the GOC. Along with the Optometry Schools Committee, we have now submitted detailed proposals to the GOC on how this will work in practice.

Right now it’s important to focus on the rest on your exams. Please be assured that the College has not forgotten students. We are working hard to ensure that you can enrol and begin the Scheme as soon as it is possible and we will continue to keep you informed at every stage.

Watch our video:

 

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30 April 2020: Update for final year students

You may have seen our recent update on the Scheme for Registration current pre-registration trainees.

We realise that there are lots of optometry students who were planning to enrol on the Scheme this summer, so we wanted to provide a specific update for you.

We understand the anxiety and uncertainty you are feeling right now. From early on in this crisis we have been working with the Optometry Schools Committee (OSC), which represents each of your universities, to ensure that you can graduate this summer and, as long as you get a 2.2. or above, be eligible to enrol on the Scheme. This will be the case even if you haven’t fully completed your patient episodes, or even have some of your core competencies outstanding. We are currently working with the regulator, The General Optical Council (GOC) and the OSC so that you will be able to have any outstanding elements signed off while on the Scheme.

Will I be able to start my pre-reg this summer? And when?
We think it’s important to be honest and say that most current pre-reg trainees will be delayed in completing the Scheme, and this is likely to mean a delay in your start date. Many practices can only accommodate one trainee at a time, and this may be more challenging depending on what practice life is like once the lockdown is lifted but social distancing remains. It will also be affected by how long the temporary changes we’re currently looking at for the Scheme will need to remain in place.

However, it’s important to remember that the Scheme is designed to be flexible. Although the ‘enrolment year’ has technically always started in June, you can enrol at any point, and you will have 2 years and 3 months to complete the Scheme from your individual enrolment date. We are talking to employers at the moment about their plans, and have agreed to work with them, and your universities, to ensure that you are supported once you graduate, especially if there is a delay before you can start in practice. We are also reviewing our supervision arrangements to allow more flexibility for practices to take on trainees. We will be in touch when we have more details on both of these things.

Right now it’s important to focus on the rest of your studies and exams. Please be assured that the College have not forgotten students, and just as we are working hard for all current trainees, we are also working hard to ensure that you can enrol and begin your pre-reg period when the time is right.

Watch our video

 

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29 April 2020: Scheme for Registration update

We realise that this is a difficult and uncertain time for all trainees. We are working every day on allowing trainees to progress on the Scheme for Registration. However, taking an observation-based, face-to-face assessment and adapting it for a lockdown or social distancing situation is challenging. We need to be sure that any changes are safe and fair and, where the requirements relate to GOC standards, gain approval from the GOC.

Since the last update, we have developed our initial plans and have put our proposed changes to the GOC. We are in discussions with them on whether they meet their standards, and the modifications we will need to make. 

We want to assure you that we are working hard on this, but it will take time, given the complexity and scale of the Scheme. As you know, our number one priority, shared by the GOC, is patient safety. The GOC has to be certain that those who register are fully competent and have the required levels of experience to be safe practitioners.

We have also been talking to universities and employers, and working with them to ensure that everyone is supported. 

Proposed changes to the Scheme

We have had queries on the specific changes we are proposing to the Scheme, which we can now share. However, it is important to understand that these are just proposals – we will need GOC approval and support from employers. The plans are also dependent on when and how lockdown is lifted, and how social distancing is relaxed.  

If you are in stage one, we are looking at how we can assess outstanding competencies remotely. Our proposals take account of the fact that that furloughed trainees cannot access patient records or do any work for their employer. Remote assessments may be different from the normal stage one assessments, but they will have the same focus on signing off competencies using, for example, case records or scenarios.

If you are in, or waiting for, stage two, we are working on proposals to assess the overarching competencies remotely. There is no way that we can assess a routine eye examination or a contact lens fit / aftercare without direct observation. We hope to allow these assessments to go ahead as soon as it is safe to do so. 

The OSCE will remain to ensure that everyone that passes the Scheme, whether pre, post or during COVID-19, goes through the same final assessment.

The July OSCE

We’ve made the decision to cancel the July OSCE. We can’t run the exam with social distancing measures in place, and it is not fair to expect out-of-practise trainees to sit a practical exam. We have made more places available at the September OSCE, and if needed, we will arrange a further OSCE sitting before the end of the year.

We are currently collecting and analysing each trainee’s progress on the Scheme up to 18 March. We are also looking carefully at when trainees enrolled on the Scheme. This will help us to fairly extend time on the Scheme for everyone affected by COVID-19, and will include taking account of the cancelled July OSCE for trainees near to the end of their time on the Scheme. 

We will continue to keep you up-to-date. Please be assured that that we are working hard on your behalf, and that the arrangements we will put in place will be fair and safe.

Watch our video

 

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6 April 2020: Scheme for Registration update

Here at the College we appreciate how difficult and worrying this unprecedented time is for all pre-registration trainees. We know that very few trainees and supervisors are still in practice, many have been furloughed, and trainees will not currently have access to patients or patient records and we know that this makes things extremely challenging. 

At the start of the current crisis, we committed to four priorities, as follows:

  • to support trainees, supervisors and assessors
     
  • to make appropriate adaptations to how trainees can progress through the Scheme and demonstrate requirements of registration
     
  • to minimise disruption to trainees’ progression through the Scheme
     
  • to arrange for extensions to the allotted time for trainees affected by these exceptional circumstances

So, we are providing this update on the work we are doing to explore temporary changes to the Scheme.

  • The Education team is currently working hard to develop ways in which we can assess and progress the sign-off of trainees on all 75 GOC stage 2 competencies in the fairest way that is safe, and respects current government guidelines on social distancing and self-isolation.
     
  • Last week, we convened a special working group made up of assessors, supervisors, examiners and assessment experts. This group considered how we can safely adapt Scheme requirements. Some of the ideas we discussed focused on:
    • How we can provide learning materials to support trainees currently not in practice. This included how we can develop a virtual, online replacement for the Hospital Eye Service placement
    • How we can use remote assessment technology within Stage 1 and 2 without compromising standards and fairness for trainees
    • How we can run the direct observation aspects of the work-based assessments and the OSCE in the most efficient way possible 7 once face-to-face assessments can resume.
    • The guidance we will need to provide for everyone once the temporary changes are finalised
       
  • Our initial proposals are due to be scrutinised by the College’s Education & Standards Committee before being submitted to the GOC later this week for approval
     
  • Once we have received approval from the GOC, we will begin to develop the detail of our plans. 

We are also working with university optometry education teams, through the Optometry Schools Council, to explore how we can best support new graduates enrolling into the Scheme, as well as students on integrated degree programmes. We plan to develop a supportive learning and development resource to support new trainees.

We do not yet know how long the current restrictions will last or how long temporary changes will need to be in place. While we are working hard to overcome these challenges, it would not be right for us to rush the changes we make or not consult with appropriate parties. Trainees who qualify from the Scheme can move into fully independent, unsupervised practice, so we have to ensure that the alternative assessment arrangements we propose are rigorous and ensure patient and public safety, while also being practical to implement. 

We will continue to keep you updated over the coming weeks. 

Watch our video

 

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26 March 2020: Scheme for Registration update

We want assure trainees, supervisors and employers that we are developing proposals to modify the Scheme for Registration requirements in these exceptional circumstances. While work has begun on these, it will take some time to develop full proposals and have them signed-off by the GOC. 

We are working to put in place arrangements that recognise that pre-registration trainees are unlikely to be employed in supervised practice for a period of time, and therefore not able to meet the standard Scheme requirements. We are also exploring what we can do differently, having had to suspend work-based assessment visits on the Scheme. 

We are exploring modifications we can make and how competencies can be assessed differently, all while upholding the rigour of the Scheme and ensuring patient safety. We are involving key stakeholders in this work, and will test our plans with different parties, including employers and the GOC. We recognise we need to build confidence in any potential modifications, so that they are both credible and practical.

We are developing a process for approving extensions to allotted time on the Scheme for trainees whose placements and progress are affected by COVID-19. This will aim to avoid individual trainees needing to apply separately for extensions (as is the case under standard Scheme regulations).

We are also exploring how we can work with employers to support trainees’ learning and development while their supervised practice is suspended. 

We will keep you updated with all Scheme for Registration developments. 

We want assure trainees, supervisors and employers that we are developing proposals to modify the Scheme for Registration requirements in these exceptional circumstances. While work has begun on these, it will take some time to develop full proposals and have them signed-off by the GOC. 

We are working to put in place arrangements that recognise that pre-registration trainees are unlikely to be employed in supervised practice for a period of time, and therefore not able to meet the standard Scheme requirements. We are also exploring what we can do differently, having had to suspend work-based assessment visits on the Scheme. 

We are exploring modifications we can make and how competencies can be assessed differently, all while upholding the rigour of the Scheme and ensuring patient safety. We are involving key stakeholders in this work, and will test our plans with different parties, including employers and the GOC. We recognise we need to build confidence in any potential modifications, so that they are both credible and practical.

We are developing a process for approving extensions to allotted time on the Scheme for trainees whose placements and progress are affected by COVID-19. This will aim to avoid individual trainees needing to apply separately for extensions (as is the case under standard Scheme regulations).

We are also exploring how we can work with employers to support trainees’ learning and development while their supervised practice is suspended. 

We will keep you updated with all Scheme for Registration developments. 

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

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Introduction 

1.    We recognise we are in unprecedented times. We are concerned to provide supportive advice to trainees, supervisors and assessors. We understand that this is a very difficult and fast-changing situation for everyone. 

2.    We encourage all trainees, supervisors and assessors to follow NHS and College advice here.

3.    The College’s initial plans for assessment arrangements within the Scheme for Registration arrangements, in the current context, are set out below. These take account of government advice issued on 16th March 2020. 

4.    We have produced some initial FAQs to respond to queries. These are available below. 

Cancellation of stage 1 and stage 2 assessment visits

5.    In the context of latest government advice, all stage 1 and stage 2 assessment visits within the Scheme have been cancelled from 18th March. We will keep the need for this measure under regular review, taking account of government advice and requirements.   

6.    We have made this decision so that trainees, supervisors and assessors can follow government and organisational advice on self-isolation and social distancing and respond, as required, to any escalation in how this advice is couched.

Exceptional measures

7.    The College is liaising with the General Optical Council (GOC) on changes that we can make to assessment arrangements within the Scheme in the context of Covid-19, while still meeting GOC requirements of education providers. 

8.    In doing this, our priorities are as follows:

  • To support trainees, supervisors and assessors at this very difficult time
  • To make appropriate adaptations to how trainees can progress through the Scheme and demonstrate fulfilment of Scheme requirements without compromising education and professional standards
  • To minimise disruption and delays to trainees’ progression through the Scheme and their contribution to patient care and service delivery
  • To arrange for collective extensions to allotted time on the Scheme for trainees affected by the exceptional circumstances created by Covid-19.    

9.    We will provide detailed information and guidance on the exceptional arrangements as we develop and finalise these. 

10.    We are liaising with the GOC and the Optometry Schools Council on exceptional arrangements for students/graduates who are due to enrol on the Scheme in 2020/21, given the current disruption to students’ undergraduate studies. We have produced a joint statement with the GOC

11.    We are giving particular consideration to the situation and needs of students enrolled on degree programmes into which the Scheme for Registration is integrated, and of students who enter the Scheme via progression routes other than directly from an optometry undergraduate degree. 

Further information 

12.    We will provide regular updates and specific alerts on significant changes or developments relating to the Scheme. 

13.    If you have specific queries that are not answered by this information or the FAQs, please send them to education.help@college-optometrists.org and one of team will be in touch.

Updated: 19 March 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 are changes to the Scheme taking so long to confirm, and why is it taking 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.

Our proposals are currently awaiting full GOC approval. While we understand that the uncertainty around the detail of our arrangements and the timing of their launch is causing concern, the GOC needs to follow due process to ensure that our proposals meet regulatory standards and requirements and ensure public safety. In the meantime, we are doing all we can to prepare for the launch of remote assessment ‘visits’ as soon as possible, and are producing further guidance and training for all parties.

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Stage 1 FAQs 

How much notice will I get before a remote assessment visit?

As soon as our plans have been signed off by the GOC, we will release full guidance for all trainees and supervisors. Assuming our plans are given approval, this will say that trainees will be given at least two weeks’ notice of an assessment date. Just like they do now, our assessors will work with trainees to find a date that suits both parties and  the  trainees’ individual circumstances.

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Will Stage 1 assessments take place in practice now that things are opening up again?

Although some trainees and practices are seeing an easing in lockdown restrictions, this is not the case for everyone, and is not the same across the four nations of the UK. We may also  see increasing local lockdowns over the next few weeks and months. This means that some practices will be more able to accommodate an assessment visit than others. So, in order to be as fair as possible to all trainees, all assessment visits will take place remotely. 

A trainee can, of course, choose to be at work and in practice during the assessment, but the assessor will be remote via video call. 

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Can I use patient records (PR) as evidence for remote Stage 1 visits?

As soon as our plans have been signed off by the GOC we will release full guidance for all trainees and supervisors. This will include a list of the compulsory evidence types for each competency. We have removed PR as compulsory evidence because of the confidentiality issues around sharing records remotely. We are also aware that not all trainees will have access to patient records. Trainees will be able to refer to patient records during a remote assessment visit if they choose to, but these will not form a compulsory part of the assessment and cannot be shared with the assessor.

In preparation for assessment visits, trainees may wish to make notes from their records to use as part of the discussion in their assessment, but must ensure all patient details are removed.

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For visit 3, how will things such as Goldmann Applanation Tonometry be assessed?

Our proposal is to replace the direct observation of Goldmann tonometry with a witness testimony, which can be completed by a trainee’s supervisor or another optometrist who has been qualified for at least two years. The assessor will also ask the trainee questions in line with the indicators about applanation tonometry. The College will provide a template for the witness testimony in its guidance.

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How will case scenarios be case scenarios (CS) be used during Stage 1 remote visits?

The case scenario will be based on the original patient episode required for the individual competency. The assessor will share a patient scenario with the trainee, which may include a record card, a fundus image or prescription details, and then ask a series of questions linked to the scenario. Stage 1 is a formative assessment so the assessor will talk through the scenario while covering the competency indicators.

 

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Stage 2 FAQs

Why are Stage 1 trainees able to start soon, but there have been no announcements about Stage 2?

Our plans for Stage 2 are currently with the GOC and we hope to be able to resume the overarching assessment of Stage 2 soon. We are also seeking more guidance on social distancing arrangements for practical assessments /examinations before we can resume the direct observation assessments. 

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Why do I need to have direct observations at Stage 2 when I’ve already been observed and signed off at Stage 1?

Stage 1 is a formative assessment, so trainees have been signed off on various elements of an eye examination or a contact lens assessment. Stage 2 is summative/synoptic, so we need to assess a complete examination in which the trainee has no prior knowledge of the patient’s ocular examination or prescription.

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When will Stage 2 assessments go ahead?

We hope to be able to resume the overarching assessment of Stage 2 soon via a series of remote visits, similar to those we are proposing for Stage 1. For the direct observation elements, we are seeking more guidance on social distancing arrangements for practical assessments / examinations before we can resume these assessments and so we can’t be any more specific at this time. 

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Will I still need patient records (PR) for the Stage 2 overarching section?

The overarching Stage 2 assessment will be based around case scenarios. We have removed the use of PRs because of the confidentiality issues around sharing records remotely. We are also aware that not all trainees will have access to patient records. Trainees will be able to refer to patient records if they choose to, but these will not form a compulsory part of the assessment and cannot be shared with the assessor.

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You have previously mentioned Stage 2 assessments could take place at exam centres. Where will these be?

We have not finalised these venues, but are looking into a range of options, including OSCE centres and university facilities. We understand there will be a need to host these in different regions to reduce the need for overnight stays. We are also keeping open the possibility of Stage 2 direct observation taking place in practice, if the employer and national guidelines permit.

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OSCE FAQs

When will the next OSCE take place?

The OSCE is still planned to take place in September. We are currently liaising with the venue, other assessment and professional bodies and Royal Colleges about the social distancing arrangements required to ensure the OSCE can run in a way that is safe to trainees, patients and College examiners and staff.

We are also planning to run further OSCE exams later in 2020 for candidates who are unable to sit the September OSCE.

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What changes will be made to the OSCEs due to COVID-19?

We are currently developing our plans for the OSCE so that it meets government and venue requirements on social distancing and is safe and fair for all candidates. We will publish these details once they have been finalised and, if required, approved by the GOC.

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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?

Trainees will still 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 1, trainees will have until they have completed the OSCE to do this. We have carried out an audit of all trainees’ patient experience numbers and feel that this is achievable once trainees return to practice.

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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 the lockdown period and can be extremely valuable clinical experience. However, the current requirements for numbers do not include the triaging. We would encourage trainees keep a log of all patients encounters as these may contain useful learning that they can draw upon during assessments visits. 

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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, trainees will be entitled to an additional 15 days of temporary supervision on top of the 30 days they have had since the start of their Scheme year. 

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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 and local guidance for the appropriate phase. 

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Do trainees need to wait for the green phase to return to practice and see patients?

No, trainees can be back in practice as long as they follow the College’s and local guidance for the appropriate phase.

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I no longer have a pre-registration position. Can I continue with stage 1 assessments?

Yes. All trainees who have had at least visit 2 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 ultimately an individual trainee’s decision to decide whether or not they feel in a position to resume assessments.

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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 prevent them from restarting the scheme, they will be able to opt out of the modified assessment arrangements within the first six weeks of Stage 1 restarting. The guidance on Stage 1 assessments will have more information on this.

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I am currently furloughed and I don’t know when I’m going back to work. Can I continue with Stage 1 assessments?

Yes. All trainees who have had at least visit 2 will be able to continue with the Scheme for Registration, whether or not they are able to access a practice. By continuing with Scheme assessments remotely, they are not engaging in employment and so this is allowed under furlough arrangements. Trainees may not be able to contact or have support from their supervisor, however, depending on an individual employer’s policies. We would recommend trainees check with their employers before deciding whether or not to continue with assessments.

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I am currently having to stay at home because of child care. What support can the College offer me to resume the Scheme?

In terms of continuing with assessments, this will not be compulsory, and it is ultimately an individual trainee’s decision to decide whether or not they feel in a position to resume assessments. Trainees who are experiencing exceptional circumstances can choose to opt out until they feel they are able to resume. We would also encourage trainees to engage with their employers about their specific working arrangements.

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What are the minimum hours of testing each week? What are the minimum 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 2 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 ultimately an individual trainee’s decision to decide whether or not they feel in a position to resume assessments.

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20/21 Scheme Year FAQs

I’m ready to start my pre-registration placement now. Why have you delayed the start of the Scheme to 1 September 2020?

We made this decision in consultation with universities and employers for a number of reasons:

  • Trainees currently enrolled on the Scheme will be delayed by at least three or four months In addition, the July OSCE was cancelled and so trainees will not qualify when planned.
  • A large number of practices can only accommodate one pre-registration trainee at a time, and so for them it would not be practical to have a second trainee enrol in July.
  • Many practices are operating in ways that limit the number of eye examinations and the number of staff in the practice at one time. 
  • We are going to need to make significant modifications to the Scheme for Registration to make it more flexible and able to adapt to the changes to practice environments. Until these changes have been finalised, we cannot enroll trainees.

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

Our proposal for this is currently under consideration by the GOC, since it involves a change to GOC requirements. We will share this, along with plans for the rest of the 2020/21 Scheme, as soon as we are able to.

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My supervisor wants more information on the 20/21 Scheme before confirming my place. When will this information be available?

Our proposals under consideration and we will share these, as soon as we are able to. Throughout this process we have consulted with universities and employers to ensure that the modifications we make to the Scheme will support the need for flexibility and change in practice as a result of COVID-19.

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Other FAQs

When will we have more information on the HES placement?

If a trainee has not completed their ten sessions of hospital experience, they will need to complete a series of online modules on the College website before sitting the OSCE. This is currently in development and will be finalised as soon as possible.

If a trainee has completed their hospital experience since their last visit, they should show their assessor their completed hospital logbook for sign-off.

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

We realise that many trainees on integrated courses won't yet have reached visit 2 and so won't be eligible to resume remote assessment visits at this stage. This because they had achieved a lower number of competencies and patient episodes numbers when assessments were suspended. We are working with universities on specific plans to support these trainees and have submitted a proposal to the GOC for consideration. We will be in touch with these trainees separately on arrangements.

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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 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 whilst on the Scheme.

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Updated: 3 July 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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What should I do if I return to my home country?

If the College is acting as your sponsor for your Tier 5 GAE visa, it is very important you let the College know you are leaving the country. We have a legal responsibility, as your sponsor, to inform UKVI of your whereabouts. 

Please email emily.stevens@college-optometrists.org with any updates.

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Will my Tier 5 visa be extended?

We have had confirmation from UKVI that pre-registration trainees on a Tier 5 visa will be eligible for the automatic extension for health workers, provided that their visa was due to expire on or before 1 October 2020.
 
Full details of the extension can be found here. UKVI have confirmed that ‘Ophthalmologist’ is a Standard Occupational Classification Code that includes Opticians, Optologists and Optometrists.
 
UKVI have not yet indicated whether there will be any special arrangements for individuals whose visa expires after 1 October 2020.

Updated: 29 July 2020

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I recently passed the OSCE and need to apply for a Tier 2 visa. What do I do?

UKVI has stated that, “those whose leave expires between 24 January and 31 May 2020, including those whose leave has already been automatically extended to 31 March 2020, are eligible to apply from the UK to switch to a long-term UK visa”. This includes applications where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country, such as a Tier 2.

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I am in the processing of applying for a visa. Has the process changed?

Yes, UKCVAS centres for enrolling biometrics and doing identity checks are currently closed. This means that even if you apply and submit online, UKVI will be unable to complete biometrics for your application to start being processed.  

UKVI has stated that applicants who still have a valid visa will be protected by Section 3C of the Immigration Rules. This means that, until UKVI make a decision on new applications, individuals’ current conditions on their existing visa continue, even if their visas expired during the process.

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Updated: 3 April 2020

 

 

 

 

 

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