Non-EEA optometrists must complete Scheme for Registration before practising in the UK

The General Optical Council has confirmed the process to be followed by optometrists from countries outside the European Economic Area

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Non-EEA optometrists will need to have their skills mapped against stage one and stage two competencies, attend an interview and complete the College of Optometrists’ full Scheme for Registration before being allowed to practise in the UK.

The process was confirmed at the latest General Optical Council (GOC) meeting (9 May, London) and will take effect from 4 June.

The GOC’s director of strategy, Alistair Bridge, highlighted that due to the optical regulator’s public protection role, a robust system needs to be in place.

“It is important that we can ensure the applicant is at the right level,” Mr Bridge emphasised.

GOC councillor, Scott Mackie, questioned whether it might be possible to implement a ‘fast-track’ system for applicants from nations such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States where they do not have to complete a pre-reg year.

He highlighted that these countries have advanced optometric education programmes.

“There is a significant range of experience and ability between different countries,” he shared.

“We might put people off if we make it too onerous,” Dr Mackie added.

Mr Bridge replied that this option was explored but it was not considered feasible for applicants to join halfway through the Scheme for Registration.

“You wouldn’t have the records that you would then be tested on,” he added.

Because of the relatively small number of applicants, it was not possible to create a bespoke system, Mr Bridge shared.

He added that the route to registration for non-EEA optometrists would be subject to regular reviews, and a formal review after a year.

“I was seeing this as a relatively short-term system looking at how things will change with the Education Strategic Review and Brexit,” Mr Bridge observed.