GOC approves temporary changes to Optometry Handbook and Supervision Policy

From 23 July to 6 August 2020, we ran a short consultation on proposed temporary changes to our Optometry Handbook and Supervision policy in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Optometry Handbook contains the GOC’s requirements that education providers must meet as well as the required core competencies and the practical experience (‘patient episodes’) that students must obtain in order to be eligible to join the GOC register. The Supervision policy outlines requirements for the supervision of students undertaking practice-based learning.

We received a total of 71 responses and would like to thank all respondents for their commitment to helping us navigate the exceptional circumstances. After careful consideration of the feedback, we have now approved a number of temporary changes which will protect patients, students and the public and enable clinical experience to be delivered in a safe and practical way in light of the limitations that the pandemic has put on clinical practice.

A summary of the approved changes is below:

Stage 1 patient experience:

We have amended and further defined the minimum number of patient episodes that students must achieve to obtain ‘an appropriate breadth of patient experience’ and we have broadened the types of experience that can be counted for this – including observation with formal reflection. This approach will enable clinical experience to be delivered in a safe and practical way and contribute to preparing students for the new world of practice brought about by the pandemic.

Certificate of Clinical Competence (GOC stage 1):

For students who graduated in summer 2018, we have granted an extension to the Stage 1 Certificate of Clinical Competence (which students receive upon successful completion of their undergraduate studies) until 31 December 2020. We will work towards permanently removing this GOC requirement in its entirety so that any decisions regarding the currency of learning form part of a provider’s enrolment/admissions policy (such as the enrolment policy for the College of Optometrists’ Scheme for Registration).

Stage 2 patient experience:

We have reduced the total number of GOC stage 2 patient episodes that students must achieve by 10% and removed the categorised patient episode numbers. The provider must instead ensure that the student achieves an appropriate breadth of experience, and set and justify its level of any minimum experience in specific areas of practice.

Supervision policy:

We will permit non-GOC fully-qualified registrants to supervise students, if they meet our supervision criteria, are regulated, only supervise tasks that are within their professional scope of practice, and the education providers ensure that all other supervision requirements are met – including clarity about any role in patient episode or core competency ‘sign off’ that these supervisors may have.

These temporary changes to our Accreditation and Quality Assurance Handbook ‘Routes to Registration in Optometry’ (‘Optometry handbook’) education standards and requirements are applicable as follows:

  • Temporary changes affecting undergraduate education are applicable from 1 September 2020 for the 2020/21 academic year only.
  • Temporary changes affecting the College of Optometrists’ Scheme for Registration or other registrable qualifications are applicable to this year’s (Autumn 2020) incoming cohort of students/trainees only. Due to the nature of the Scheme for Registration, these changes will apply to students/trainees enrolling onto the Scheme for Registration between 1 September 2020 and 30 May 2021.

The temporary policy documents are published on our website. The consultation report is published the GOC Consultation Hub.