College seeks extension to temporary changes to GOC handbook

  • 21 Apr 2021

The College has written to the GOC in support of an extension to the temporary changes made to the Optometry Handbook and Supervision policy by the GOC in August 2020.

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The College's Director of Education, Professor Lizzy Ostler has written to Leonie Milliner, the Director of Education for the GOC to outline the College’s support for an extension to the temporary changes that GOC made in August 2020 to the Optometry Handbook and Supervision policy. We have outlined our reasons for supporting an extension below. 

Education temporary change requests

The changes to the Optometry Handbook and Supervision policy have been invaluable in allowing pre-registration trainees to progress through to the Scheme for Registration during the COVID-19 pandemic. The College strongly supports the extension of the temporary changes that relate to GOC stage 2, which only currently apply to trainees enrolling on the Scheme for Registration before 30 May 2021. The extension of these changes will ensure clarity for both current pre-registration trainees and future graduates, and continue to support a safe and COVID-secure route to registration.

We would like to highlight the importance of the continuation of two specific temporary changes, as follows.

Changes to stage 2 patient experience requirements

The change in GOC patient experience requirements from 350 refractions, 200 dispenses and 30 contact lenses, to 520 patient encounters, has enabled the Scheme for Registration to recognise the appropriate ranges and diversity of trainee experience. The change has also allowed the Scheme for Registration to better ensure that trainees gain both sufficient breadth and quality of experience by specifying both categories and characteristics of experience that reflect contemporary practice.

The College has been alert to problems or concerns raised by the modified experience requirements but has only received positive responses to the change.

Given the inflexible and historic nature of the pre-COVID patient experience requirements, the College supports this temporary change to the optometry handbook becoming permanent. By rendering this change permanent, the GOC would ensure that its current handbooks more accurately reflect contemporary optometric practice, whilst also maintaining an appropriate breadth and depth of trainee experiential learning.

Changes to supervision policy

The changes to the GOC’s supervision policy has allowed the College to encourage greater flexibility in supervision arrangements. The increase from the maximum of two to three trainees per supervisor, along with the explicit recognition of the contribution that other eye and health care professionals can make to supervision, has increased supervision capacity, without any reports of detriment to the supervisory experience.

To date, the College has been able to enrol 87% of 2020 graduates on the Scheme for Registration, with a further 4% expected to start in July 2021. Whilst we recognise that this still leaves around 70 trainees without a placement, this is much higher than we had originally anticipated, and is in large part down to the additional capacity offered by experienced supervisors, generated by the change.

Given the increasing numbers of both optometry degree courses, and students, the College supports this change becoming a permanent change to the optometry handbook. By extending this change on an indefinite basis, the GOC would be enabling a much-needed overall increase in supervisor and placement capacity, underpinning likely future workforce demands. 

Trailing competencies and episodes

In addition to these specific changes, the College is aware that progression through the route to registration was in large part enabled by the trailing of GOC stage 1 competencies into the Scheme for Registration. The College plans to undertake a full review of the progress and performance of trainees with trailing competencies in the next few months, once significant numbers of trainees who have trailed competencies have completed stages one and two of the Scheme for Registration. We will then be in a better position to report on the effects of trailing competencies. In the meantime, the College continues to support the trailing of competencies on a  temporary basis for as long as should be necessary to enable timely progression from GOC Stage 1 to stage 2 whilst COVID19 restrictions impact face to face learning activities.

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