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Professional Standards Committee

The College’s Royal Charter states that one of the main functions of the College is the maintenance of “proper professional standards in the practice of ophthalmology for the benefit of the general public.”

The term “professional standards” encompasses a very wide range of matters which impinge on the professional lives of ophthalmologists and the workload of the Professional Standards Committee is very diverse. Sometimes the committee has to provide advice on an acute problem which affects many ophthalmologists. Issues of longer term importance to ophthalmologists include revalidation, the government’s desire to have more care provided in a community setting and GP commissioning.

The College, through the Professional Standards Committee works hard to influence national policy to ensure that, in the process of change, the quality of care to patients is maintained or improves, in particular to our most vulnerable patients with visual impairments. Sometimes the Professional Standards Committee has had to put forward sustained opposition to proposals which we believe would damage or fragment clinical care – such as the reduction that some Trusts are trying to make to the number of Supporting Professional Activity sessions (SPAs) in a new Consultants job plans.

The Professional Standards Committee relies heavily on the work of its Sub-committees to develop policy and provide advice on specialised or technical issues. The following subcommittees report to the Professional Standards Committee: CPD Sub-committee, Revalidation Sub-committee, Paediatric Sub-committee, Information and Audit Sub-committee, Quality and Safety Group, Ocular Tissue Transplantation Standards Group, Workforce Sub-committee, Primary Care Group. In addition, the Committee maintains links with the Department of Health, the Centre for Workforce Intelligence, and other statutory bodies, organisations representing other eye care professions and voluntary organisations with an interest in eye care.

Many people associate the Professional Standards Committee with the provision of guidelines on aspects of clinical care. The term “guideline” is often used loosely, but formal guidelines are authoritative recommendations for clinical practice which are drawn up using a standard methodology including a rigorous review of published evidence and broad expert consensus. The responsibility for College Guidelines now rests with the Scientific Committee. The College has at various times commissioned formal guidelines but it also issues from time to time documents on particular eye conditions or treatment under the heading “Information from…..” Publications of this type are usually single-author documents which have been reviewed by the Professional Standards Committee or the Scientific Committee and are intended to inform clinical practice, but do not have the status or authority of guidelines.

Ophthalmic Services Guidance gives practical advice on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of planning and running an ophthalmology service. The chapters are updated periodically.

A small but important part of the Committee’s work is to provide advice to providers or commissioners of ophthalmology services where something has gone wrong with a clinical service, where concerns have been raised about the clinical care provided, or where an eye department is in dispute with its host trust. Although the College has no statutory right to inspect or accredit clinical services, it aims to provide rapid, high quality specialist advice when requested to do so.

The Professional Standards Committee is a listening committee. A number of its members are regional representatives to the College Council and bring the views and concerns of local ophthalmologists. Ophthalmic specialist trainees and staff and associate specialist ophthalmologists are also represented. A member of the College’s Lay Advisory Group is a co-opted member. The chairman of the Professional Standards Committee also deals individually with many enquiries from ophthalmologists, members of the public and representatives of organisations with an interest in ophthalmology. We endeavour to answer queries as quickly as possible,but it is sometimes necessary for the chairman to take advice from committee members, or even the whole committee before responding fully.

Ophthalmologists can justifiably take pride in their profession and therefore a concern for high professional standards is the responsibility of all ophthalmologists, not just a College committee.

Contact Professional Standards.