The Royal College of Ophthalmologists recognises that reduced access to cataract surgical training opportunities, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is impacting on the surgical experience of our ophthalmologists in training.
NHS eye units continue to deliver cataract surgery but the COVID 19 pandemic has increased the pressure for additional capacity and this has led to more outsourcing of cataract surgery to the independent sector. The pandemic halted elective cataract surgery in the majority of units for some months and also saw many ophthalmology trainees redeployed throughout the early recovery period, significantly reducing all training opportunities.
NHS England & Improvement (NHSE/I), Health Education England (HEE), the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) and the Confederation of Postgraduate Schools of Surgery (CoPSS) have recently proposed a framework for supporting training in elective surgery and diagnostic activities in the independent sector. The RCOphth is highly supportive of this in order to supplement training that traditionally takes place in secondary care eye departments.
Bernie Chang, President, Fiona Spencer, Chair of Training and the RCOphth Executive have been working on a proposal that outlines the benefits of independent sector providers offering alternative training sites and the mechanism to implement this. The proposal was shared with Council and it was agreed that it offers a solution to continue to develop a sustainable and well-trained workforce needed to meet the increasing demands on ophthalmology.
The RCOphth has a duty to set standards for training and work with national and local bodies to implement these standards. We believe that this proposal can benefit all parties, but it requires the appropriate governance arrangements to be in place and for independent providers, the RCOphth, the local eye unit and the relevant deanery to work together.
Ongoing discussions have been taking place with HEE, the independent providers, the deaneries and trusts. Letters officially outlining the proposal are being sent to independent providers on Monday, 5 October 2020 and further information to support deaneries is being developed over the next week.
If you would like to discuss the proposal further, or wish to let us know about alternative training sites in your region, please get in touch with [email protected].
Bernie Chang, President
Fiona Spencer, President Chair of Training