“The key point is about making their CPD choices more meaningful”

With 6000 registrants still to complete their PDP in year two of the cycle, the GOC’s Philippa Mendonsa explains why the personal development plan is vital to guide learning

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Pexels/Julia M Cameron
We are now 16 months into the new continuing professional development (CPD) cycle, and a fifth of registrants are still to complete their personal development plan (PDP).

As the halfway point of the current CPD cycle approaches, the General Optical Council (GOC) is ramping up efforts to support practitioners to understand the new CPD requirements in any way it can – and emphasising that the PDP is not just another administrative task, but an exercise that could help guide the direction of registrants’ careers for years to come.

Here, the GOC’s head of education operations, Philippa Mendonsa, explains why registrants should make this exercise a priority.

How many registrants are still to complete their PDP?

About a fifth of registrants, 6000 or so, still need to upload it – which is quite considerable, when we encourage them to complete it early in the cycle. We know there are people who have accessed the system and logged points, but not yet added their PDP.

Feedback from external stakeholders and our GOC advisory committees tells us that the sector recognises the benefits of the PDP, and there is a lot of sector support for this direction of travel. This means that we need to help to embed that change and support registrants to take on something new.

We are now on year two of the three-year CPD cycle. Is there a deadline that registrants should complete their PDP by?

While there is no set deadline, PDPs are intended to support registrants to reflect on their current scope of practice at the beginning of the cycle, think about what CPD they want to do that would be useful to them, and plan their activities over those years. We would encourage registrants to complete it as early in the cycle as possible, as this will help them make sure they complete CPD that is meaningful to their current and future practice.

What would you say to people who are thinking of it as another piece of admin, and possibly can't see the benefit of it?

The key benefit is about registrants making their choices of CPD more meaningful and strategic. It helps registrants to reflect on their professional experiences, their skills and their knowledge, to identify areas in which they want to develop, and to have those conversations with their employers.

Employers tend to have an appraisal process and may also have a learning and development programme. If they are CPD providers as well, employers could use this information to tailor the CPD that they provide to their teams’ needs. Registrants could use the PDP as a mechanism to feed into those discussions with their employers.

A PDP can also help registrants identify areas that aren’t available within provider-led CPD, which they could then pursue via self-directed CPD.

What challenges to completing the PDP do you think registrants are facing?

We recognise that some people may not be familiar with the concept of the PDP or with what one looks like, so we’ve got guidance and templates available online.

I think another concern from registrants is time. How do you fit it in? It does take time to complete, but if you balance the amount of time you spend completing CPD, you want to ensure that the CPD you attend is right for you. It is a small investment to make sure you are focusing your CPD on something that is meaningful to you, and that you can apply to your practice.

It is a small investment to make sure you are focusing your CPD on something that is meaningful to you, and that you can apply to your practice


Have any registrants got in touch to tell you about challenges they are having?

Some of the issues are technological ones: confidence using Microsoft Word, for example. But we can accept handwritten PDPs as well. You can print off a template, write it up, and then scan it in or take a photo, and upload it.

Are there any risks to delaying or putting off completing it?

You should use your PDP in your mandatory reflective exercise, which will happen at the end of the CPD cycle. This is another new concept introduced in this cycle. The reflective exercise is to look back on where you thought you were, how well your learning has come along, and any reflections that you have on the CPD cycle up to that date. These two elements fit together, so by delaying your PDP you are potentially curtailing your discussion at the end of cycle.

As mentioned, the formal PDP was introduced in 2022 for this CPD cycle. Could you say a bit about why there was a change, and why it was brought in as a requirement?

Our view is that registrants need to take personal responsibility for their own continuous development as professionals. Having a PDP supports registrants to do this. It is a crucial tool to help map their learning requirements, to remain safe to practise, to develop their practice, to anticipate and meet future patient and service user needs, and also improve public confidence in the profession and their learning structures.

Our view is that registrants need to take personal responsibility for their own continuous development as professionals


Where should registrants go to start their PDP, and where should they send it when it is completed?

One of the best places to go is MyCPD, accessible via MyGOC. Once you have logged in, go to ‘personal development plan,’ where you can download the template. We’ve got more information available on YouTube, which I’d recommend registrants take a look at. Of course, our website contains lots of information and registrants can always email our CPD team with any queries.

We know that career paths and learning requirements change over time, so we would encourage registrants to review their PDP periodically to make sure it is still aligned with their learning needs.

The GOC is in the process of sending out letters to registrants who have not yet completed their PDP but have been on the system for some time. What should registrants expect to see in those letters?

They will see an opening statement saying that our records show that they haven’t uploaded a PDP, explaining that this is a mandatory requirement, and then giving some additional information about the purpose of it, how to upload it, the template, and where else they can find out information.

I want to emphasise that this isn’t just an administrative thing – a PDP is a tool so registrants can create meaningful CPD plans for themselves, get the best out of what is available, and start to look for relevant topics that aren’t necessarily available from providers but which they could attend and receive self-directed points, which contribute to their final points total.