Everyone agrees that optometric education needs to change to keep pace with the changing profession, but agreeing a vision for that change is not straightforward.
For the best part of three years, the General Optical Council (GOC) has been consulting on undergraduate education. Then, at its May council meeting it decided upon ‘five steers’ for discussion and potential agreement at the July council. Between the two meetings the GOC organised a quick rotation of stakeholder meetings, including with the AOP Council, to get soundings. The AOP has been clear about our position and has been influencing both formally and informally. And the GOC, although professing to be in listening mode, has been determined to push on despite the reservations articulated. Our main reservation is about the idea of a single accountable provider for the whole journey from undergraduate training to qualification.
There is, still, much to play for, and we will continue to lobby on behalf of the individual optometrist, now and in the future. As the profession changes, the AOP will change its offering too. For example, our insurance package will ensure that new professional activities are covered and members can continue to practise with confidence.
“Our insurance package will ensure that new professional activities are covered and members can continue to practise with confidence”
AOP Council has been thinking about the future of the profession and what it may mean for education and for the AOP’s role and services. It considered various scenarios: 1) The ascent of optometry, with further embedding into the delivery of NHS services; 2) Its decline and fall, with the encroachment of online sales and into professional functions; or 3) “Muddling on” somewhere between the first two scenarios.
We also considered how there might be a blurring of boundaries between different optical roles as optometrists take on some of the work currently carried out by ophthalmologists, and dispensing opticians perhaps take on some of the work currently done by optometrists. Scenario planning is essential so that the AOP can assist members in a changing world and equip ourselves to serve them.
“AOP Council has been thinking about the future of the profession and what it may mean for education”
A fairer approach
Our workforce survey, Optometrists’ Futures, continues to be a source of insight into members’ aspirations for the future, and we have spent time with the three biggest employers within the sector articulating some of the issues that have come to light. The gender pay gap was one concern, as our survey showed that on average women optometrists earn 15.5% less than men. There is no complacency in the sector about the issue and employers are putting in place a range of measures to ameliorate the situation. We will be developing advice and resources for members who employ optometrists to help them ensure, and show, that their approach to pay is fair. The AOP’s CPD programme includes negotiation training and communication in the workplace, which should be encouraged for female members of staff, who can be less assertive in ensuring that their value is recognised.
The AOP education programme grows year on year to accommodate member needs and 2020 is going to be a bumper year. We are expanding all areas of our programme, including more webinars and technology in addition to our face-to-face regional programme incorporating our legal and peer reviews and our CPD programme. New for 2020 will be our event for optical assistants, which is already incorporated within 100% Optical and is to be expanded further. Education and information backed up by solid advice and insurance ensures that whatever your mode of practice, we have your back covered.
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