Pre-reg Stage One remote assessments get the go ahead

The College of Optometrists confirmed last week that remote Stage One assessments for pre-registration optometrists could begin from Monday 27 July.

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Pexels/ Andrea Piacquadio

The College of Optometrists confirmed last week that remote Stage One assessments for pre-registration optometrists could begin from Monday 27 July.

The update follows a notice from the General Optical Council (GOC) that confirmed the remote assessments could take place.

The remote assessments are only applicable to pre-registration trainees on Stage One of the Scheme, who had already completed at least two visits before 18 March, when assessments were suspended due to the lockdown. Trainees who have been furloughed or recently become unemployed will also still be able to complete remaining Stage One assessments.

Meanwhile, head of assessment, Alistair Shaw, said the College is “working hard to resume the Scheme” for Stage One trainees who have not yet completed two visits, as well as Stage Two trainees and those still to enrol.

The September Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) is also still set to take place, but as these aspects of the Scheme will require some face-to-face elements, Mr Shaw shared that the College is working to finalise ways these can be assessed safely. This includes conducting risk assessments for both in-practice and centralised venue assessments.

“This is the work we are doing now as a priority and we want to inform you on changes as soon as we can,” Mr Shaw continued. 

Remote assessments for Stage One 

“To resume assessments and enable you to progress, Stage One assessment visits need to take place remotely. We expect that this will remain the case for some time,” the College said in its remote assessment guidance.

In a video update on the new format, Mr Shaw explained that eligible trainees will first have the opportunity to discuss their current situation and whether it is appropriate for them to resume assessments. Any exceptional circumstances should be raised at this point.

Once it has been agreed assessments will resume, the trainee will be given a date with at least two weeks’ notice to prepare for the assessment.

The modified format will involve video meetings with assessors and will use established forms of evidence for the required competencies. The College added, however, that this will also be designed so that it will not require compulsory direct observation (DO) in practice by a College assessor, or patient records (PR).

“COVID-19 restrictions mean DO and PR for assessment cannot universally take place in a safe, fair way,” the College guidance stated.

Explaining the modifications, Mr Shaw said: “Two new pieces of evidence will be required in Stage One to make remote assessments possible.”

These include a witness testimony, which will replace compulsory Direct Observation evidence where possible, and a reflective account.

GOC consultation on proposed temporary changes to handbook opens

For those graduating this summer, the College plans to release a further update on changes to the Scheme for 2021, including on the GOC’s recent proposal and consultation on changes for their requirements.

The optical regulator discussed its considerations for the Scheme for Registration in a recent council meeting.

The GOC has now launched a two-week consultation on the proposed temporary changes to its ‘Accreditation and Quality Assurance Handbook for Optometry’ and its ‘Supervision policy.’

These include changes affecting undergraduate education for the next academic year (2020/21), and for changes affecting the College of Optometrist’s Scheme for Registration for the autumn’s incoming cohort of trainees.