GOC confirms extension to temporary Optometry Handbook changes

The General Optical Council agreed to extend the changes for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 academic years

person filling out a form

The General Optical Council (GOC) has agreed to extend the temporary changes to the Optometry Handbook and Supervision policy for the 2021–22 and 2022–23 academic years.

The temporary changes were first introduced in August 2020 in order to protect patients, students and the public, while enabling clinical experience to be delivered safely and practically, “in light of the limitations that the pandemic has put on clinical practice,” the GOC shared.

In considering whether to extend the changes, the GOC reviewed information from its annual monitoring and review process, and also considered comments, evidence and feedback from sector bodies and providers.

The GOC has now confirmed it would extend the temporary adjustments, which include changes to Stage 1 patient experiences, Stage 2 patient experiences and the Supervision policy.

As part of the temporary changes put in place last year, the GOC also granted an extension to the Stage 1 Certificate of Clinical Competence for students who graduated in summer 2018 to 31 December 2020. Providing an update on this temporary change, the GOC said: “We continue to review whether this requirement can be removed in its entirety so that any decisions regarding the currency of learning will form part of a providers enrolment/admissions policy.”

The temporary change to Stage 1 patient experiences amended the minimum number of patient episodes students must achieve and broadens the type of experience that can be counted, while the alteration to Stage 2 patient experience reduced the total number of GOC Stage 2 patient episodes students must achieve by 10%, also removing the categorised patient numbers, requiring providers to ensure students achieve a breadth of experience.

The temporary change to the supervision policy permits non-GOC, fully-qualified registrants to supervise students; provided they meet the supervision criteria, are regulated, only supervise tasks within their professional scope of practice, and that education providers ensure all other supervision requirements are met.

Speaking to OT earlier this year, ahead of the confirmation, AOP Councillor and pre-registration optometrist, Luke McRoy-Jones, welcomed the proposals to extend the temporary changes, highlighting that, in light of the continued uncertainty the pandemic has caused as students progress through their training: “It is essential that certainty is provided, at the earliest opportunity, for students, trainees, academic staff and placement providers/employers.”

McRoy-Jones shared that the temporary changes provided greater flexibility for students to progress through the Scheme for Registration, while maintaining high standards. He suggested this also helps to ease some of the impact of the pandemic – allowing graduates to progress through the Scheme and helping to mitigate further delays to trainees.