There seem to be a few contradictory movements going on within UK optometry at present, so the start of a new year seems like a good place to take stock and try to make some sense of whether people should be cheerful or downbeat.

The ebb and flow of the optometry apprenticeship degree seems to be back in an ebb phase after the trailblazer group met late last year to discuss the proposals, which had been resubmitted to the Institute for Apprenticeship Training and Education weeks earlier. Crucially, the submission was made without additional consultation with stakeholders like the Association of Optometrists and the College (News 11.11.21), who were both somewhat irked.

The rather unexpected outcome from December’s meeting was that the end point proposal has once again been put on hold. There was ‘unanimous support for a hiatus to enable reflection,’ says a statement, but questions must be asked as to what happened in a few short weeks that would cause such a U-turn. Questions also must be asked about the disjointed nature of the submission process. What message does the chaotic approach mean for the trailblazer group and its objectives?

One of those objectives will be to bring more optometrists into the sector, but that will come at a time when the number of optometrists could fall because of wider adoption of remote testing technology. Late last year (https://www.opticianonline.net/features/in-focus-o...), Optician brought you details of how Brillen was using overseas optometrists to perform refractions remotely, that were then rubber stamped by locums in their UK practices. Multiples are also trialling various flavours of online refraction and remote testing in Europe and the UK – some are even recruiting for specific remote roles.

Bringing more optometrists into a sector where technology is likely to mean that fewer roles are needed doesn’t make much sense, unless the new generation of optometrists aren’t educated in the same ways of those that went before them and end up performing a different type of role.