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GOC launches consultation on temporary changes to Optometry Handbook

The regulator has launched a consultation on the proposed temporary changes, suggested in light of the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on education and training

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The General Optical Council (GOC) has launched a two-week consultation into proposed temporary changes to its Optometry Handbook and Supervision policy due to the continued impact of COVID-19 on education and training.

The consultation, which opened on 23 July and is due to close on 6 August, will consider temporary changes to the ‘Accreditation and Quality Assurance Handbook: Routes to registration in Optometry, 2015’ and the GOC Supervision policy.

“COVID-19 has altered the way in which optical education and training can be delivered, particularly the teaching and assessment of clinical skills,” the GOC shared in a statement. “We recognise that rapid changes are required to ensure that clinical experience can still be obtained, remains safe for all, and ensures that students learn the right skills, knowledge and behaviour during the pandemic.”

The GOC highlighted that while many education providers have moved teaching and assessment online, or have deferred some of the GOC requirements (such as core competencies and patient episodes), “these were only intended to be temporary changes until ‘normality’ returned.”

But with the impact of COVID-19 “wide and, as yet, of uncertain duration,” the regulator said it has become clear that the sector will have to make further “and potentially longer term changes” to deliver training which prepares students for practice and meets the required standards.

The temporary changes would be effective from 1 September 2020 for the incoming cohort of students and trainees in the next academic year of 2020/21.

The regulator acknowledged that for the cohorts of students currently undertaking clinical experience through the University of Bradford’s BSc Optometry (Accelerated Route) and University of Hertfordshire’s Master of Optometry, the changes may need to be retrospectively applied.

“We recognise that two weeks is incredibly short,” the GOC said of the consultation timeframe, “However, we want to be agile and manage these temporary changes to our standards as quickly as possible.”

As a targeted consultation, the GOC is particularly interested in hearing the views of those affected, such as education providers, students and employers.

The AOP’s policy team has encouraged members who want to share their comments and help inform the AOP’s response to the proposals, to visit the community forum, or to send comments to [email protected]