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Gareth Hadley, Chair of the General Optical Council (GOC), is today calling upon educators, employers and professional bodies in the optical sector to work together to facilitate solutions to achieving enhanced clinical experience for student optometrists and dispensing opticians.

His call follows the publication of a GOC report analysing responses to its concepts and principles consultation as part of its Education Strategic Review.

82 per cent of consultation responses agreed with the concept of embedding clinical experience from the start of training. Respondents also highlighted a range of benefits from enhanced clinical experience for students, predominantly linked to improvements in patient safety and quality of care. These included the opportunity for students to link theoretical knowledge with working in practice and to better develop their clinical and communication skills.

Some respondents also presented a number of challenges around the practical application of this concept, particularly those associated with providing access to enough varied external clinical placements, ensuring students receive appropriate supervision and delivering a good quality experience to all students.

Gareth Hadley, said: “It is clear that the sector recognises the likely benefits of enhanced clinical experience in education programmes, for patient care and the quality of clinical practice, and we acknowledge the various concerns raised by stakeholders regarding how this would be realised in practice.

“However, our role as the professional regulator is to put patients first. The optical sector has an obligation to find workable solutions to these practical challenges. It is in no one’s interests – patients, optical businesses and other employers, students or educators – to limit the opportunity for more competent and confident practice.

“We believe that earlier, more varied and frequent clinical experience for students can help further build professional confidence, effective communication skills and professionalism. I call on educators, employers and professional bodies in the sector to come together now with us to start creating solutions to this issue and in doing so, to draw on what works well at the moment and learn from other professions who have moved in this direction already.”

Source: Optical