As the end of another CET cycle approaches I’m amazed by the panic among some registrants. Personally I attend CET not for points (I have over 100) but to learn something new and meet my fellow professionals. Locked in consulting rooms all day, or trapped on busy shop floors, optometrists, contact lens opticians and dispensing opticians have little time to compare notes, let alone conduct a real peer review of a real patient episode in a real place of work.

According to MyGOC I’ve well surpassed my CET target of 36 points, and the ‘peer average’ optician who had only 22 points to her name mid-November. The GOC’s newsletter, October 22, reported 8,000 were still to meet their CET requirements 10 weeks before the end of the CET cycle. They risk being suspended from the register and unable to practice. For optometrists and CLOs this means being unable to work so their employer would have every right to dismiss them. DOs could work under the supervision of a registrant who is on the premises and in a position to intervene, but given most DOs supervise others carrying out restricted functions then they too are putting their employment at risk.

As colleagues scramble around for points in hard to get competencies the search is worsened by the poor functionality of the GOC CET Directory searching system. A colleague searching for CET booking details was perplexed to find CET she knew to exist from social media could not be found when the location was left as ‘all’ but appeared when the region was entered. Equally when we knew a roadshow had several events only some of them would show in the search. Contacting the provider directly they confirmed the details were correct on their provider account and couldn’t understand why some events couldn’t be found, although it did confirm to them why some events weren’t filling up while others sold out quickly.

I’d also challenge the reports the GOC system shows on the registrant’s dashboard. If 8,000 out of around 22,000 have met their requirements, and the peer average number of points is 22, do the numbers stack up? I think not.

The approximately 14,000 registrants who have met their requirements, will (excepting newly qualified folk), have at least 36 points. Let’s say the new registrants lack of points are balanced by those that have many more points than required, so overall the average remains at 36 points. If 14,000 have 36 points, that’s 504,000 points.

So, if all 22,000 opticians average 22 points that totals 484,000, which by my reckoning means the average person who hasn’t got all their points has a negative amount which clearly isn’t possible. The GOC’s CET numbers simply do not add up, and if they can’t be trusted to report them correctly on a permanent dashboard feature that has existed for over a decade, why should we trust them to get our individual points right?

Now they will probably come up with some excuse about registrants not accepting their points messing up their reports as has been cited before. Make sure if you want to be on the register next year you have checked your CET account, accepted all outstanding points, and ensured you’ve got all the required competencies. Having done the CET is not sufficient – you must have accepted the points and reflected in your learning for them to count.

Going forward the GOC promises CET will become higher level and less prescriptive. I’m all for following your dreams and aspirations, for specialisation and targeted learning appropriate to your mode of practice, but I also think we need the basics. Optometrists can already ignore the important field of optics in their CET. By ticking the low vision box they avoid anything relating to dispensing and paediatric dispensing even if they supervise unqualified dispensers or trainee dispensing opticians. I’m not sure going even higher level is right.

I get that we need to grow up and take responsibility for our own lifelong learning like most other ‘CPD certified’ professions, but I also worry that we may forget the basics of everyday practice. The reason doctors can be self-directed in their CPD is because their appraisal system makes sure the basics (and the personally necessary) are not missed out. In the same time as we get 36 point GPs have to do 150 hours of CPD. If optometrists are to be the GPs for the eyes then they should aspire to similar CPD requirements, if 150 hours was split equally between three-point workshops and one- point journal based learning, then our new requirements should be 300 points per three-year cycle not 36. If I were the GOC I’d go somewhere in the middle, say 36 points per year, but I’d also get my house in order with regard to website functionality and reporting too.