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The College

The College acts as the voice of the profession, we set the curriculum and examinations for trainee ophthalmologists, provide training in eye surgery, maintain standards in the practice of ophthalmology, and promote research and advance science in the specialty. Ophthalmologists are at the forefront of eye health services because of their extensive training and experience in the area.

As an independent charity, our policies are based on impartial, clinically based evidence. We work with leaders and decision-makers in the eye health sector, such as government health departments, commissioning bodies, and patient and charity organisations to help shape eye services for the benefit of patients.

We have over 3,500 members worldwide and our work involves:

  • Developing the education, training and exam programme for doctors wishing to specialise in ophthalmology
  • Setting and maintaining the standards for professional practice of ophthalmology through clinical guidelines
  • Promoting study and ground-breaking research in ophthalmology and publishing the results, including through our scientific journal, EYE
  • Educating the public in eye health
  • Organising a comprehensive programme of seminars, surgical skills courses and our annual scientific Congress

We support NHS Trusts in reviewing their hospital eye health services, using our expertise in ophthalmic care and management of eye health for patients.

We are not, however, a regulatory body and don’t have a role in disciplinary actions relating to ophthalmologists, and are therefore unable to act on complaints about individual doctors. The General Medical Council (GMC) is responsible for this, as it is for all medical professions.

The GMC holds the central registers of doctors’ qualifications, including details of those who have completed specialist training. Patients and the general public can find out if consultants are registered with the GMC.  You can also search for a consultant who is a registered member with RCOphth.

We can’t offer advice to patients on their individual condition or treatment options, but we do provide general information about the different eye conditions and treatments. If you are concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP. Optometrists may also be able to provide assistance and guidance.

College History

The College was originally formed from the Ophthalmological Society of the United Kingdom and the Faculty of Ophthalmologists. The Society, founded in 1880 by Sir William Bowman, had held a scientific meeting every year with only a few exceptions during the Second World War. The Faculty, formed in 1946 by Sir Stewart Duke-Elder, was the professional organisation for ophthalmologists. The Royal Charter creating the College of Ophthalmologists was granted on the 14 April 1988 and the Royal Licence was granted five years later.

Sir William Bowman continues to be honoured by an eponymous lecture which is given every second year at the annual congress. The lecturer receives the Bowman medal, the most prestigious award offered by the College. Sir Stewart Duke-Elder has given his name to the Duke Elder Undergraduate Prize Examination which takes place once a year in medical schools throughout the country.