Responding to the General Optical Council’s (GOC) latest press release about Education Strategic Review, Clive Marchant FBDO, president of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians says:
“The Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) had training to become a dispensing optician bench marked in 2006 by Ofqual, the independent regulator. We proposed our syllabus of education and assessment based on the GOC’s core competencies. We were delighted with the outcome from the Ofqual exercise, as it demonstrated the level of skill our members are achieving was at Level 6. We believe that at some point during 2011, without consultation, the GOC decided that the minimum baseline qualification level for an ophthalmic dispensing qualification would be Level 5. This was inserted into the Guidelines for the approval and quality assurance of routes to GOC registration for Dispensing Opticians with no discussion of the implications.
“The GOC’s core function is one of public protection and this is why we have our current Level 6 education for dispensing opticians. The vast majority have obtained FBDO Level 6 and a few have completed a Level 5 course. The introduction of a Level 5 course has led to a two-tier dispensing optics profession, and this is not in the best interests of the public. However, the GOC sees downgrading all the profession to a Level 5 minimum as its preferred direction. How downgrading education can be viewed as good public protection is beyond us. The Level 6 FBDO qualification has consistently proven to be robust and safe, the GOC should use their review of education as an opportunity to increase the baseline educational training level to 6, to provide all students with the best start in their career as a dispensing optician.
“Lowering our level of education disrupts the established pathways of advancement to higher qualifications in Low Vision, Contact lenses, MECS and BSc. Obtaining a degree enables DOs to progress into research. All professions advance as a result of research and it is ludicrous to obstruct this logical pathway. The optical profession has evolved and progressed over many years and should continue to do so to provide the best possible services and solutions for our patients. This was made clear in our initial submission to the review some 2 years ago. We expect review to provide the opportunity for progression but the current direction is exactly to opposite.
“We are extremely concerned about the GOC’s lack of engagement with, and regard for, our profession. A full and thorough review of Education Standards is a critical piece of work to ensure public safety and professional development in the future. By ruling out examining the appropriate level for training of Dispensing Opticians, the GOC is failing in what it set out to do.”