Preliminary work is being done to establish a new optometry programme at the University of the West of England.
The course is to sit within the university’s Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences.
Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences head of department, Dr Vivien Gibbs, told OT that the university hoped to deliver an optometry programme from September 2018, but no details had yet been finalised.
"At this stage we have identified a need in the workplace for additional trained optometrists,” Dr Gibbs highlighted.
“We have advertised for a programme lead role and are hoping to interview in May. Once we have this person in place we will begin mapping out the structure of the programme,” she explained.
Staff had started completing preliminary notification paperwork that would be submitted to the General Optical Council (GOC), Dr Gibbs added.
Staff were working with a range of both national and local stakeholders while setting up the course, she emphasised. A multiple was not sponsoring the new programme, Dr Gibbs added.
A spokesperson for the GOC outlined to OT that all applications to establish a new accredited course were judged on whether they met GOC standards.
“The GOC is not able to consider factors such as demand for optometrists or market conditions when considering accreditation applications,” he said.
Any institution wishing to establish an optometry course leading to GOC registration needed to make a formal application.
The GOC would then consider the application. If it met requirements, the GOC would grant provisional approval to the course, the spokesperson explained.
Full approval would be granted after the GOC was satisfied that the course met the GOC’s standards for students to achieve full registration.
Provisional approval was granted by the GOC council, on the advice of its education committee. It enabled the course to be established and advertised to recruit the first cohort of students.
Keith Pearce, a former AOP Councillor for the South West, told OT that it was his belief that optometry did not suffer from an undersupply of optometrists, but an unwillingness to move to certain areas to practise.
“One wonders where the students will come from with so many new courses,” he highlighted.
“As optometry is a vocational degree, I feel sorry for newly qualified optometrists should there be an oversupply,” Mr Pearce added.