GOC Council approves new education and training requirements for dispensing opticians and optometrists
The Council of the General Optical Council (GOC) has approved new education and training requirements for GOC approved qualifications leading to registration as a dispensing optician or optometrist.
These will replace the current Education Quality Assurance Handbooks for optometry (2015) and ophthalmic dispensing (2011) and will ensure that all dispensing opticians and optometrists are equipped to deliver eye-care services in a rapidly changing landscape and meet the needs of patients in the future.
The requirements, which are a result of an Education Strategic Review (ESR), were approved at the public Council meeting on Wednesday 10 February 2021 and are outlined in three documents:
- Outcomes for Registration, which describe the expected knowledge, skills and behaviours a dispensing optician or optometrist must have at the point they qualify and enter the GOC register.
- Standards for Approved Qualifications, which outline the expected context for the delivery and assessment of the outcomes leading to an award of an approved qualification.
- Quality Assurance and Enhancement Method, which describe how the GOC proposes to gather evidence to decide whether a qualification meets the Outcomes for Registration and Standards for Approved Qualifications, in accordance with the Opticians Act.
Key changes include:
- More focus on the development of professional capability, a combination of critical thinking, clinical-reasoning and decision-making which are vital to ensure optical students can respond and engage to changing patient needs and up-to-date, research-informed clinical practice.
- A candidate on their journey to registration will acquire a single qualification approved by the GOC, rather than the two qualifications, which are currently required for the majority of candidates.
- Qualifications must integrate 48 weeks learning and experience in practice, which will help build professional confidence, effective communication and professionalism to prepare students for broader and more varied clinical roles.
- Qualifications will need to be either an academic award or a regulated qualification. For the first time, qualifications in optometry will have a specified minimum Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF) of level 7; and for dispensing opticians, this has been increased from level 5 to level 6.
The requirements are underpinned by extensive research and consultation including a pivotal piece of co-commissioned research by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), a public consultation (July – October 2020) by Enventure Research Ltd and The University of Manchester’s Delphi verification research. Throughout the review, the GOC worked with its Expert Advisory Groups (EAGs), consisting of experts from across the sector.
GOC Council Chair, Gareth Hadley OBE, said: “I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to shaping our proposals and to assure that we will continue to work closely with our stakeholders as we implement the changes. We value all of the feedback we’ve received over the years to ensure our requirements are fit for purpose and reflect the changing landscape of the optical sector, not least as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.
The new requirements mark the most fundamental change for over 35 years in the way optometrists and dispensing opticians are prepared for entry to our register and they will have direct and lasting positive impacts on patient care and safety. The qualifications will also give greater assurance that our requirements are being met and risks are being managed, therefore continuing patient and public confidence in our ability to maintain and monitor high standards.”
From March 2021, the GOC will work with each provider of GOC approved and provisionally approved qualifications to understand at what pace they will wish to adapt their existing qualifications or develop new ones. The GOC will also be communicating with its stakeholders, including registrants, education providers and students to outline how these changes will affect them. It is anticipated that most education providers will work towards admitting students to approved qualifications that meet the new Outcomes and Standards from the 2023/24 or 2024/25 academic year.
The Council meeting marks the final meeting for Council Chair Gareth Hadley OBE and the newly appointed Chair, Dr Anne Wright CBE, will commence on 18 February 2021.