In October, I (perhaps) cheekily drew some parallels between the General Optical Council’s Education Strategic Review and Brexit. Both seemed to be continuing apace without anyone being fully aware of the details and both were wedded to the notion of getting the changes across the line. Maybe they’re more aligned than I initially thought.

The GOC’s approval of new education and training requirements (In Focus, page 6) for optometrists and dispensing opticians follows years of discussions with the sector’s associations and membership bodies, but seemingly not the education institutions. That 14 faculty leaders felt it necessary to write jointly to the GOC to express their concerns in 2019, was quite extraordinary. That due diligence on the financial implications for education establishments and students wasn’t available until after the end of the consultation period was also extraordinary.

But we live in extraordinary times and now the associations that were seemingly at loggerheads with the GOC are welcoming the approval, albeit ‘cautiously’. Just like Brexit, the details of the concessions made, and by who, will come out in due course. The role of large employers should also hopefully become clearer.

My biggest issue with the ESR is the seemingly unstoppable momentum it has built up, especially over the past year against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The GOC points out the new requirements are the most fundamental change for over 35 years in the way optometrists and dispensing opticians are prepared for entry to the registers and will have direct and lasting positive impacts on patient care and safety. So, if we’ve waited such a long time, what’s another year or two given the unprecedented pressures of the pandemic? And it’s not like the implementation of the ESR and new education measures have been immune from project creep in recent years.