September 2021 statement: GOC Independent Prescribing handbook requirements

We are aware of workforce pressures within independent prescribing, delays to trainee progression, and the ongoing impact of the pandemic. Whilst new education requirements for independent prescribing qualifications (IP) may help ease the burden, we are mindful these will not take effect for some time. In the meantime, we have been working with the College of Optometrists in order to ease the pressures on placements, support individuals who have had delays caused to their training, and ensure requirements of the current IP handbook are met.

Requirements 3.1 and 3.2 in the IP handbook state that the 12 days / 24 sessions of the Clinical Practice Placement must be under the supervision of a designated ophthalmologist. The College of Optometrists has proposed that individual Clinical Placement Sessions are signed off by a designated ophthalmic practitioner who is registered as an independent prescriber, with overall sign-off of the logbook remaining the responsibility of the designated ophthalmologist. In addition, it was previously a requirement that these 24 sessions take place face to face. However, the College has proposed to permit candidates to participate in remote or virtual clinics during their clinical practice placement, provided that:

•  candidates continue to meet the requirement of 24 x three hour clinic sessions;

•  45% of placement experience (equal to 11 x three hour sessions) is made up of face-to-face or patient experience in the HES or specialist general practice;

•  the remaining 55% (equal to 13 x three hour sessions) can be comprised of remote or virtual clinics;

•  all remote or virtual sessions must generate evidence of activities relevant to the GOC-specified learning outcomes;

•  all sessions, whether face-to-face or remote, must be signed off by a designated ophthalmologist, approved by the College;

•  candidates must continue to provide evidence that all the learning outcomes have been addressed.

Requirement 2.1.3 in the IP handbook states that in order to maintain currency of knowledge, no more than two years may elapse between the participant’s completion of the theoretical element of the programme and the commencement of their clinical placement. The College of Optometrists has proposed that, for those individuals exceeding this two year timeframe, a review of currency of knowledge is undertaken and extended for those who are able to evidence:

• completion of six hours per year IP-related CET activity, spread across all nine IP competencies;

• this CET was started no later than 18 months following completion of the academic course.

We are satisfied that these proposals will ease the burden on placements, whilst still meeting the IP handbook requirements. All changes will be monitored by the College of Optometrists, with updates shared with the GOC as part of the annual monitoring and reporting process.

If you have completed the theoretical element of the IP programme, are approaching the two year timeframe and have yet to commence a clinical placement, please email the College of Optometrists at to ensure your currency of knowledge is reviewed as soon as possible.

Please note, we are currently consulting on new requirements for independent prescribing qualifications which will close on 4 October 2021.