The College of Optometrists

About the guidance

This guidance sets out what is expected of optometrists. It is relevant to you, whether you are an owner practitioner, partner, employee, locum, or pre-registration optometrist, and is useful to students learning about what professionalism means. It applies in all work environments, including multiples, independent practice and hospital.

It helps you to ensure that you put your patients’ interests first, and work in partnership with them so they receive the best possible care. Remember that the different chapters do not exist in isolation. The guidance in the sections on Safety and quality, Communication, partnership and teamwork, and Maintaining trust are all there to underpin the advice given in the Knowledge, skills and performance section. So, when consulting the guidance, you may, for example, want to read the chapter Examining patients with learning disabilities together with the chapter Consent, or the chapter The routine eye examination with the chapter Partnership with patients. There are also some patients who fall into more than one category, for example, patients with diabetes or learning disabilities who need a domiciliary eye examination.

The guidance is there to support you in making the right clinical decisions. You may decide that specific circumstances mean that, in your professional judgement, you need to take a different course of action. This is fine as long as you can justify that action.


GOC’s Standards of Practice for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians

The guidance is based on the GOC’s standards and is there to support you in putting those standards into practice.

You should familiarise yourself with the standards, and think about how our guidance and the standards interrelate. For example, you should always recognise and work within your limits of competence and keep your knowledge and skills up to date. Similarly, while the standard Communicate effectively with your patients obviously matches our section Communication, partnership and teamwork, it also applies, together with all other patient related standards, to the Knowledge, skills and performance section of our guidance.



We use:

  • must where you have a legal or regulatory obligation to follow the guidance
  • should where we would normally expect you to follow that course of action. If your professional judgement leads you to take a different action, you must be able to justify that action.

How the guidance is organised

The guidance is organised in four sections:

A.    Knowledge, skills and performance
B.    Safety and quality
C.    Communication, partnership and teamwork
D.    Maintaining trust.

Within each section of the guidance are chapters which include:

  • Key points
  • Detailed topic information
  • Useful information and links
  • References.

The search facility on the website will help you find the guidance you need.



We have developed a wide range of information and resources to support your continuing professional development, including :

  • online learning resources, exercises, journals, webinars and live events to help you learn and earn CET points 
  • career development information including professional qualifications and awards
  • guidance on essential GOC CET requirements.

You can use our online ethical scenarios, which are designed to help you apply the guidance to your everyday practice. 

And you can use peer discussion case studies with your colleagues to discuss how you should approach different situations that could occur in your daily practice.

We also produce essential reading and learning for our members on a range of topics including:

  • AMD
  • glaucoma
  • papilloedema
  • red eye.

DOCET produces material for all registered optometrists. This includes live CET, video and audio libraries of courses on many different topics and peer discussion material.


Access to the old guidance

The previous version of the guidance was effective 1 November 2014 to 20 November 2017. If you would like access to previous versions, please contact our Clinical Advisers 020 7766 4372 or email, during office hours. To help you to know which chapters to request, download the contents page of the archived Code of ethics and guidelines for professional conduct.

Further support for members

If you are a member you can get further support by contacting our clinical advice service


If you need a different format

If you need the guidance in a different format, you should contact us on


If you need additional copies of the printed version

All fully-qualified UK members will have received their copy of the Guidance for Professional Practice. If you would like further copies, these can be purchased at the member price of £45 or non-member price of £90. Please contact us on 020 7839 6000 or email to place your order.


When the guidance will be updated

This version of the Guidance was effective from 21 November 2017. We will update the guidance every three years. The next update will be in 2020 and only significant changes will be published in the meantime.



Winner of Memcom 2016 award for best microsite

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7839 6000



Website developed by NetXtra