The General Optical Council (GOC) has launched a consultation on changes to its international requirements for registration. This affects optometrists and dispensing opticians who gained their qualifications outside of the UK or Switzerland.

One of the GOC’s main duties is to assess the quality and content of the education and training provided to anyone training to practise in the UK, regardless of where they achieved their qualifications, before allowing them to join the register.

Currently, optical professionals who have qualified overseas and wish to join the GOC register are assessed against the GOC’s handbook requirements (Quality Assurance Handbooks for optometry (2015) and ophthalmic dispensing (2011)). If that assessment is successful, applicants then go on to undertake either the College of Optometrist’s Scheme for Registration (for optometrists) or ABDO’s examinations (for dispensing opticians).

Following the introduction of the GOC’s updated education and training requirements (ETR) in February 2021, the consultation addresses how the GOC would manage overseas applications going forward.

The proposed revised approach would mean all applications for international registration from the agreed implementation date (potentially from September 2026) will be assessed against the relevant ETR. The GOC would no longer undertake individual registration assessments prior to an applicant applying to be admitted to a GOC approved qualification.

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The GOC may continue to assess applications for registration from optical professionals who have qualified outside the UK or Switzerland who meet or exceed the requirements for GOC registration (including the ‘outcomes for registration’).

This would allow for a more streamlined process for bringing in additional registered optical professionals qualified to the same standard as UK trained optometrists and dispensing opticians and help meet anticipated patient demand and address reported workforce shortages.

The GOC is keen to hear from any optical professionals applying to join its register who gained their primary qualifications outside the UK, education providers, sector bodies, optical businesses, patient groups and other stakeholders.

As part of this consultation, the GOC is also interested in views and evidence of overseas qualifications that may be broadly equivalent to UK qualifications under the ETR.

GOC Director of Regulatory Strategy, Steve Brooker, said:

“Optical professionals registered overseas are a growing and important part of the workforce. To maintain public safety, we need to revise our current requirements for applicants registered overseas to ensure their training and experience is in line with our updated education and training requirements for UK applicants.

We encourage all stakeholders to respond to the consultation so we can reflect their views in the final policy changes.”

The consultation is hosted on the GOC Consultation Hub and will close on 4 October 2023.

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