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In the UK, most eye surgeons are qualified as consultant ophthalmologists and are listed on the specialist register, which is governed by the General Medical Council, even if they are exclusively in private practice.
Consultant ophthalmologists usually cover everything from the examination and diagnosis of eye conditions to the treatment and surgery they require. They differ from other eye specialists, such as optometrists and orthoptists, in that ophthalmologists are fully qualified doctors who have specialised in the field.
Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who undergo extensive training after they have qualified in general medicine. Training as an ophthalmologist is a long process and requires:
- 5 years basic medical training.
- 2 years foundation training in general medicine.
- Registration with the GMC.
- 7 years Ophthalmic Specialist Training (OST).
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists
The curriculum for Ophthalmic Specialist Training is created and examined by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) and covers a comprehensive range of specialist medical and surgical training. More information is available from the Royal College about the OST curriculum.
The RCOphth is responsible for setting and upholding standards, creating training, setting examinations and encouraging continued professional development.
Eye surgeons in the UK should have the following letters after their name, with fellows being more experienced and senior to members:
- MRCOphth: member of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
- FRCOphth: fellow of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
These letters indicate that eye surgeons have followed an approved course in ophthalmology and passed the rigorous examinations set by the society. However, the Royal College does not licence ophthalmologists to practice and will not recommend a surgeon to a patient.
Nor is the Royal College a regulator; it does not handle complaints or take action against its members. This is the role of the General Medical Council.
Continued professional development
While the extensive training outlined above is mandatory for consultant ophthalmologists, most will continue to train and learn throughout their careers, expanding their knowledge and skills voluntarily. This includes keeping up to date with the latest research on eye diseases and conditions, as well as undertaking specialized training in new equipment and surgical techniques, sometimes in other parts of the world.
Ophthalmology is a rapidly developing field, especially in the area of laser surgery, so it is crucial that eye surgeons take part in continued professional development.
Medical ophthalmology emerged around twenty years ago as a distinct speciality from general ophthalmology. A medical ophthalmologist combines expertise in ophthalmology with general medicine, enabling them to diagnose and treat those conditions that affect both the eyes and the rest of the body.
Medical ophthalmologists work with patients who have conditions such as diabetes, ocular inflammatory disease, neurological problems and vascular disorders.
Medical Ophthalmologists are members of the Medical Ophthalmological Society and their specialist training is overseen by the Royal College of Physicians.
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Moorfields Private is the London-based private division of the world-renowned Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, with a reputation as a centre of excellence for providing ophthalmic care to private patients from the UK and across the world.
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