Scheme for Registration assessments can continue in lockdown

The College of Optometrists has said that face-to-face work-based assessments and the January OSCE can go ahead

woman in mask
The College of Optometrists has said that assessments under the Scheme for Registration can still go ahead during the new lockdown.

With the governments in England and Scotland announcing lockdown restrictions on 4 January, all four of the devolved nations are now in lockdowns in efforts to stem the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Under the measures, the public is required to stay at home except for a limited number of reasons, including medical appointments.

The current understanding outlined by optical bodies including the AOP, General Optical Council, and the College of Optometrists, is that practices can remain open to provide eye care during the new lockdown. The optical bodies indicated that practices should follow the College’s amber phase guidance, prioritising emergency, or urgent and essential care on a needs and symptoms led basis. Routine appointments should only be provided if capacity permits and if it is in the patient’s best interests, the College of Optometrists explained.

The College of Optometrists has confirmed that under the government’s guidelines, face-to-face work-based assessment in allied health subjects, including Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments, can still go ahead during the lockdown.

The College also highlighted that government advice suggests the OSCE due to begin on 25 January can still go ahead.

As travel is permitted for work and educational purposes, assessors will still be able to visit practices to assess trainees, while examiners and trainees will be able to travel to and from the OSCE exam.

In its statement, the College emphasised: “Please be assured that we will be working within the government regulations and the College’s COVID-19 guidance to ensure the safety of trainees, supervisors, assessors and patients.”

Regarding the January OSCE, the College said its priority would be ensuring the safety of candidates, examiners and others involved in the examination and working in the venue.

The College added: “We will be reviewing arrangements and we will keep those affected updated and informed.”

Commenting on the announcement, AOP councillor and pre-registration optometrist, Luke McRoy-Jones, felt it was in the best interest of trainees to proceed with assessments and the January OSCE, in line with government guidance. He explained: “Pre-registration trainees and students have faced significant delays and disruption to their training already, as a result of the pandemic. This, in itself, has created a number of financial and practical implications for many.”

Mr McRoy-Jones added that trainees have been working “incredibly hard despite ongoing disruption and uncertainty” to prepare for the OSCE and demonstrate they have fulfilled the criteria to become registered optometrists.

“This is a symbolic moment in an optometrist’s career, that has seen a significant delay for this cohort already,” he said.

Sharing a message for fellow pre-registration optometrists, Mr McRoy-Jones said: “As always, these assessments will take place in a controlled clinical environment and hence, trainees can be assured that they can be made COVID-19 secure and that the College of Optometrists have conducted appropriate risk assessments to ensure the wellbeing of trainees, assessors and patients.”

He continued: “I would like to wish all trainees sitting assessments in the next few months the best of luck.”

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to transform optometry across the UK, the OT team are available to hear your experiences. If you, or a colleague, is interested in sharing your story, please get in touch: [email protected]

OT endeavours to keep the most up-to-date news on our website and this information was correct when published. However, the situation regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving.