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A minute with...Marcus Dye

The GOC’s acting head of education reflects on the results and lessons of the 2013–15 CET cycle

GOC acting head of education, Marcus Dye

What are the General Optical Council’s (GOC ’s) thoughts on the 2013–15 CET cycle? 

The strongest conclusion we’ve drawn so far is that we’re extremely pleased with how the profession has embraced the changes we made to the CET scheme in the last cycle.

This has been evident in the extremely high compliance rates – we removed just 160 practitioners out of over 20,000 for failing to meet their CET requirements, which is a record low. But it’s even more evident in the dozens of conversations my colleagues and I have had with practitioners who have told us how valuable they find interactive CET to be, and particularly peer review.

Beyond this, we’ll be listening extensively to registrants, CET providers and other stakeholders to draw more detailed conclusions and consider how the CET scheme might need to evolve further.

Were there any key successes?

The popularity of peer review throughout the cycle has been the biggest highlight. A lot of practitioners were nervous when peer review became compulsory for optometrists and contact lens opticians in 2013, but the vast majority have reported finding it really valuable.

So many practitioners now do more than the minimum one event per cycle. As the statistics on this page show, our 14,472 registered optometrists completed 34,210 peer review events. And non-contact lens dispensing opticians completed 6846 events, even though peer review is not compulsory for them at all.

It was also great to see a Cardiff University study showing that taking part in peer review led practitioners to report increased self-confidence and make changes to their practice. These are exactly the benefits that we want practitioners to draw from peer review.

What has the GOC learned from this CET cycle to inform the development of the 2016–18 cycle?

We would like to see practitioners planning their CET to meet the needs of their own scope of practice, by making more use of their Professional Development Plans (PDPs). When logging into the new CET system this cycle, registrants will be asked to define their scope of practice first and then think about CET and other development that they could undertake over the next three years to maintain or expand their scope of practice. We are also keen to promote reflection on the CET undertaken to see whether it addressed the needs of the registrant and how this might influence the selection of further CET activities. We want to really encourage registrants to make better use of the PDP over the 2016–18 cycle to help plan and embed their learning.

At the end of last year we reviewed our requirements for interactive distance learning (IDL). We didn’t feel that all IDL demonstrated that the interactive element was sufficient to meet our requirements for interactive CET. We worked with the IDL providers to come up with clearer criteria to make it easier for both providers and approvers to understand the requirements. We know that distance learning is hugely valuable, especially for practitioners with busy lives or those living in rural areas or abroad. However, interactivity is such a key part of CET that we had to ensure the approval criteria required providers to demonstrate that the CET was truly interactive.

The new standards took effect as of 1 April. Are there any steps practitioners need to take now?

Hopefully by now all registrants have read the standards, and confirmed that they will abide by them, both as part of the retention process and on the PDP screen in MyCET.

Registrants have asked for more information on consent and the duty of candour. We are now consulting with the profession and other stakeholders on detailed guidance in these areas – you can find the draft guidance on our website and I’d encourage you to let us know what you think about it.

We have also had questions about whether the standards have changed to require a registrant to always be on the premises for non-regulated dispenses. We can confirm that the law has not changed and this is not necessary either according to our Standards of Practice or the Opticians Act. However, we are aware that for some major employers it is company policy.

Sometimes registrants want advice on implementing the Standards, but we can’t provide this for every specific scenario. Registrants should use their professional judgement to apply the Standards to a given situation. They may also find it helpful to seek out guidance from the professional bodies.