Optometry apprenticeship plans submitted to IFATE

The AOP says decision to submit the proposal without consulting sector bodies shows “disregard for members’ deep concerns”

LM optom apprenticeship

The AOP has sought to reassure members that it will be “ready to expose any serious risks in the implementation process” after plans for an apprenticeship in optometry were submitted to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE).

The proposal was submitted by a trailblazer group, which was formed to develop an optometrist apprenticeship pathway. On 5 November the trailblazer group confirmed the application will go through an approvals process with IFATE.

AOP chief executive, Adam Sampson, said that the association is “disappointed but not surprised that the trailblazer group has demonstrated a disregard for the deep concerns raised across the profession by submitting this proposal without consulting the sector bodies.”

He added: “Patient safety has to be at the forefront of how the education framework is developed for optometry. Our firm position is based on an unprecedented level of feedback and concern from our members, who view the proposal as it stands with a serious lack of confidence.”

He sought to reassure AOP members that, if IFATE approves the proposal, “we will be ready to expose any serious risks in the implementation process and demand the requisite steps are taken to mitigate them.”

The AOP has previously voiced the concerns of members on the issue, with particular regard to student supervision and quality assurance.

The association has also drawn on member feedback to oppose the proposal as part of a consultation response.

An apprenticeship pathway for doctors has also been submitted for review to the IFATE.

A decision on the validity of an optometry apprenticeship is expected in January 2022.

Having gone through the IFATE’s ‘proposal stage’ and ‘standard stage,’ the proposal for optometry is now at the ‘end-point assessment (EPA) stage,’ which includes asking whether the proposed assessment methods will allow apprentices to demonstrate their full competence.

As part of this stage, the IFATE has created a survey inviting comments on the EPA. The closing date to respond is 16 November.

AOP clinical and professional director, Dr Peter Hampson, told OT: “We will be responding to the consultation and encourage members to do the same. The consultation shows that the proposals are going ahead without addressing the fundamental concerns raised by AOP two years ago.”