GOC Council approves updated requirements for independent prescribing categories

The Council of the General Optical Council (GOC) has approved updated education and training requirements for GOC-approved qualifications in Additional Supply (AS), Supplementary Prescribing (SP) and/or Independent Prescribing (IP) categories. The decision was made at the GOC’s final Council meeting of the year, held on 8 December 2021.

The proposed Outcomes for Approved Qualifications, Standards for Approved Qualifications, and Quality and Assurance Enhancement Method were publicly consulted on from July 2021 to October 2021. They will replace ‘A Handbook for Optometry Specialist Registration in Therapeutic Prescribing’ (published in July 2008) and the ‘Competency Framework for Independent Prescribing’ (published in 2011), and the policies on supervision and recognition of prior learning.

The key changes include:

  • Trainees will acquire a single qualification approved by the GOC leading to specialist entry to the GOC register in the relevant category rather than the two approved qualifications gained either sequentially or simultaneously at present.
  • The approved qualification will be either an academic award or a regulated qualification at a minimum of Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF) (or equivalent) Level 7/11 for AS, SP and/or IP.
  • Trainees upon or shortly after admission to an approved qualification must have identified a suitably experienced and qualified designated prescribing practitioner (DPP) who has agreed to supervise their 90 hours of learning and experience in practice. This is a shift from the current requirement of a designated medical practitioner (DMP), in line with other regulators.
  • Trainees will no longer be required to have been practising for two years before undertaking an AS, SP or IP qualification.

From January 2022, the GOC will begin working with providers to adapt their existing GOC approved qualification in independent prescribing qualifications or develop new qualifications to meet the new outcomes and standards at a pace which best suits providers. It is anticipated that most providers will begin to admit trainees to approved qualifications that meet the updated outcomes and standards by September 2023. For trainees currently enrolled on currently GOC approved IP programmes, their route to specialty registration will not be affected by the introduction of these updated requirements.

Council also approved the use of reserves to facilitate a cross-sector knowledge hub, which will help programme leaders and module coordinators in their design and development of new, integrated qualifications to meet the new requirements. The hub will be a neutral and independent forum for academic staff, preceptors and DPPs to exchange ideas, ask questions, develop guidance and share best practice.

Leonie Milliner, GOC Director of Education and incoming CEO and Registrar from January 2022, said: “We’d like to thank our Expert Advisory Group, the Quality Assurance Agency, the Universities of Surrey and Hertfordshire and all our stakeholders for their support and considered input into shaping our new requirements for specialist post-registration prescribing qualifications. These are fundamental and urgently required changes which will play an important part in building registrants’ capacity to meet future patient and service user needs within service redesign in each nation of the UK.

We know that we are asking existing providers of GOC approved IP qualifications to make significant changes to their programmes over the next few years, which is why Council has also agreed to support three additional projects over the next three years to support the introduction of the updated requirements.

It has been an extremely collaborative process to get to this point, and we will continue to work with providers, trainees, commissioners and the optical sector every step of the way to ensure a smooth transition to the new requirements.”

Further updates from the Council meeting are available on the GOC website.