College proposal for additional IP mentors approved

Following GOC approval, registered independent prescribers will be able to sign off individual clinical practice placement sessions for IP trainees

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Pexels/Sora Shimazaki

Registered independent prescribers (IP) will be able to sign off individual clinical practice placement sessions for IP trainees after the General Optical Council (GOC) approved a proposal from the College.

Under the proposal, approved designated ophthalmic practitioners who are registered as an independent prescriber will be able to sign off individual sessions.

The practitioner must be approved by the College of Optometrists for the role, have at least two years of post-specialist qualification experience and be listed on the regulator’s register as such, and be working under the supervision of the designated ophthalmologist mentor.

To receive College approval, the practitioner must either be an IP-qualified optometrist, with at least two years of experience with an IP qualification and be listed on the GOC register as such. Or they may be a GMC-registered doctor engaged on, or two years into, an ophthalmic-speciality training programme and also listed on the GMC register.

The designated ophthalmologist mentor will continue to have oversight of requirement achievements, but this can be indirect rather than through direct supervision. They will also remain responsible for overall logbook sign-off.

The change, which was introduced from 26 August, applies to all IP trainees at all stages of completing their logbook. The adaptation will also remain in place for the lifecycle of the qualification route.

Commenting on the introduction of this new policy, Lizzy Ostler, director of education at the College of Optometrists, said: “We have been working with the GOC to maximise the opportunities for IP trainees to undertake the required clinical experience despite the difficulties of accessing this under COVID-19 restrictions.”

Ostler added that any changes have had to be designed carefully to meet the standards set out in the GOC Handbook, whilst providing flexibility for clinical learning during the pandemic.

Reflecting on the changes that have been made, Ostler shared: “We have been able to recognise and build on changes in practice by agreeing with the GOC that some remote supervision sessions can be recorded as part of their IP experience, and more recently that, while overarching supervision by a consultant ophthalmologist is required to assure the overall clinical experience, individual sessions can be delivered and signed off by other relevant IP qualified optometric professionals. This also recognises the importance of multidisciplinary teams working in clinical environments.”