The General Optical Council (GOC) has today launched a consultation, on extensive proposals to update requirements that underpin the approval of qualifications for specialist entry to the GOC register, in additional supply (AS), supplementary prescribing (SP) and independent prescribing (IP) categories.

The consultation seeks views on three proposed documents:

  • Outcomes for Approved Qualifications for Specialist Entry to the GOC Register (AS, SP and IP), which describes the expected knowledge, skills and behaviours an optometrist must have for the award of an approved qualification for specialist entry to the GOC register.
  • Standards for Approved Qualifications for Specialist Entry to the GOC Register (AS, SP and IP), which describes the expected context for the delivery and assessment of the outcomes leading to an award of an approved qualification for specialist entry to the GOC register.
  • Quality Assurance and Enhancement Method for Specialist Entry to the GOC Register (AS, SP and IP), which describes how the GOC will gather evidence to decide, in accordance with the Opticians Act, whether a qualification for specialist entry to the GOC register meets its outcomes and standards for approved qualifications for specialist entry to the GOC register.

The proposed documents will replace ‘A Handbook for Optometry Specialist Registration in Therapeutic Prescribing’ and the ‘Competency Framework for Independent Prescribing’, published in 2008 and 2011 respectively. They will also replace the policies on supervision and recognition of prior learning, which are published separately.

Currently, qualified optometrists who have been practising in the UK for two years are eligible to train for a specialty qualification in AS, SP or IP. In addition, trainees may only undertake a clinical placement as part of their IP training under the supervision of an ophthalmologist within the hospital eye service.

The proposed changes include:

  • Trainees would acquire a single GOC-approved qualification leading to specialist entry to the GOC register in either the AS, SP and/or IP categories, instead of the two sequential GOC-approved qualifications required at present (the theoretical component, normally delivered by a university, followed by The College of Optometrist’s Therapeutic Common Assessment).
  • The approved qualification would be either an academic award or a regulated qualification at a minimum of Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF) (or equivalent) level 7.
  • Trainee supervision would be undertaken by an appropriately trained and qualified registered healthcare professional with IP rights (called a designated prescribing practitioner or DPP) rather than an ophthalmologist (designated medical practitioner or DMP). The DPP must be an active prescriber competent in the clinical area(s) they will be supervising the trainee in, have the relevant core competencies and be trained and supported to carry out their role effectively.
  • An outcomes-based approach would be used to specify knowledge, skills and behaviours using an established competence and assessment hierarchy known as ‘Miller’s Pyramid of Clinical Competence’, mapped to relevant external prescribing frameworks, including the draft Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) Competency Framework for all Prescribers (2021).
  • IP registrants would no longer be required to renew their specialty separately or supply details of prescribing decisions undertaken in the previous 12 months.

GOC Director of Education, Leonie Milliner, said:

“We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to shaping these important proposals to update our requirements for qualifications we approve, leading to specialist entry to the GOC register in one or more of the IP categories. We will continue to work closely with our stakeholders to listen to concerns and understand the impact of our proposals, particularly upon trainees whose progress has stalled due to the limited availability of hospital eye service placements during this pandemic.

We value all the feedback we receive 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.

In the autumn we intend to consult on similarly extensive proposals, to update our requirements that underpin the approval of qualifications for specialist entry to the GOC register as a contact lens optician.”

The consultation close on 4 October 2021.

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