Chris Bennett: Optometry courses must move with the times
Author: Chris Bennett
New optometry degree courses keep popping up and when they do its scares the horses. Each time a new course is mooted a ripple of discontent resounds around the forums and Twitter. Generally, the arguments for and against centre on the numbers but enhanced optical services and technology is changing that.
Historically optometrists have enjoyed an enviable position of guaranteed employment. In the 1990s a shortage led to employers and universities upping the supply of graduates. But that didn’t solve the problem, so courses began to open in the regions. Ditto. What is now clear is that the argument has moved from numbers to the type of skills being developed.
Optometrists are working shorter hours, in shorter careers. Optometry is no longer a life-long vocation. Newly qualifieds are unable to meet the modern demands of independent prescribing and management of a range of eye conditions. Despite an explosion of technology and changing NHS needs university courses have not responded. Selection and teaching need to be rethought.
The GOC Education Strategic Review is an opportunity to do that. The Foresight Report gave a clear steer on technology while ABDO has said dispensing needs to give full weight to ‘previous experience, commitment, emotional intelligence and communication skills as well as academic ability.’
Specsavers has left the optical establishment and regulator largely flat footed with its activity, 3,000 optometrists trained by WOPEC, and its forthright, common sense comments on why and how optometry and ophthalmology should work together. Coming from anyone else those comments would have been more widely lauded.
The GOC review is an opportunity for optometry to change not only what is taught at university and to how many but for how long, to what level and to whom.