I see the future of continuing education and training (CET) is once again on the agenda as the General Optical Council has recently published a consultation document to seek views on how the current scheme should evolve to meet the challenges of the future.

It seems implausible now, given changes in professional mind-set, regulation and what has become accepted practise, that only 20-odd years ago our CET was a voluntary scheme, run by the College of Optometrists. At that time some practitioners were vociferous in their opposition to voluntary, let alone compulsory CET. This was a view I could never understand.

I wondered if those people considered going to a doctor or dentist who had undertaken no CET since their degree course finished many years before. Would they have trust and confidence in their clinical skills and understanding of advances in practice or would they be understandably apprehensive?

I hope everyone is now firmly on board with the principle that we must maintain skills for the benefit of our patients and as our patients can only see an optometrist for an eye examination, we have to make sure we do not abuse that privileged position.

Since CET has become compulsory the scheme has evolved positively from an initial start of getting points from lectures and articles, to the current scheme set up in 2013, with a greater emphasis on interaction with fellow professionals, plus requiring CET across a range of professional competencies. These changes have all been to the benefit of the profession.

So what enhancements to the scheme, if any, will be of benefit looking forward? It would be good for the future scheme to encourage us to adopt a planned process to our CET and get away from the mind-set that it is simply about gathering points.

I would like to see a greater emphasis on individuals planning their CET in line with their mode of practice and analysis of personal needs. A further enhancement I would like to see considered is that we demonstrate that learning is put into practice before we are able to accept the points; that is, we use what we learn for a practical purpose and can demonstrate this.

At the moment we have to complete a reflective statement for interactive CET, but could this be extended to all our CET? These ideas have the potential to embed a culture of planning, learning and taking action.

However, the ideal scenario may not be practical in terms of money and time. In the medical world there is an elaborate process of trained individuals checking a fellow professional’s portfolio to establish that their CET is planned, undertaken and then put into practice. This may be a step too far for us as it would inevitably involve setting up a whole industry of administration to organise, not to mention the financial cost. One also has to be mindful that optometry and dispensing are a relatively low risk profession and whatever we do needs to be proportionate in terms of cost and effort.

Whatever comes along, we should acknowledge that we have come a long way in 20 years and the current CET system has done fairly well. The next chapter will continue to improve how we learn and how we put ourselves in position to get better outcomes for our patients and maintain their confidence in our skills.

We should also remember not to overreact to anything new, in that it is essential we focus on core skills with some advanced professional development added and not vice versa. This would reflect the act that the role of most optometrists is to perform eye examinations and we have to make sure we are proficient at the bread and butter of the job.

I acknowledge that the role of some will change and even in routine practice we have more technology than ever available to us; however that is where planning to meet the needs of each individual’s roles comes to the fore.

Finally, as professionals, do we need to wait to be told what to do, or should we be proactive in putting these ideas into place now? There are obvious benefits to our patients and it would enhance the trust they show in us.

I would also bear in mind that at some time we all make mistakes and if that leads to a civil or regulatory challenge regarding our clinical skills, if we can show we are diligent in our learning, it is easier to demonstrate that any error is the exception.