The joint statement from the Association of Optometrists, College and Optometry Schools Council (OSC) on the potential financial implications for optometry education providers as part of the GOC’s Education Strategic Review (ESR) is perhaps the most damning assessment of the process to date.

The three organisations have made clear their concerns that the new framework suggested within the ESR could carry additional costs and see a number of education providers exit the market. The GOC wants providers to integrate 48 weeks of hands-on clinical experience within the path to registration instead of the regular pre-reg phase post-degree.

A change such as this would have serious ramifications, not just for education providers as the AOP et al point out, but for the practices where students will get their hands-on experience. When a practice takes on a pre-reg, it has within its ranks a semi-finished optometrist. Between real world experience and final assessments, the pre-reg phase adds the finishing touches. The prospect of taking on a pre-reg optometrist with even less clinical experience is unlikely to appeal to practice-based
pre-reg supervisors.

With proposed changes of this magnitude, you would have thought the GOC would have considered the financial implications for education providers, but according to the AOP, the College and the OSC, no consideration was made in the draft impact assessment. Some consultancy work has now been commissioned, but it feels like a bit of an afterthought and won’t even be ready until after the consultation closes on October 20. The GOC has set a date to agree the framework in December 2020, but it’s possible that it could be rubber-stamped before education providers know the full cost implications.

The ESR is starting to get a bit like Brexit – wedded to dates, lacking in detail and rubbing stakeholders up the wrong way.