Feedback on AHPO Education programmes

Reports from the Pearson Standards Verifier

The Pearson Standards Verifier is responsible or ensuring that we deliver BTEC diplomas to the specific standard. The Standards Verifier reviews portfolios, visits workplaces, interviews learners, mentors and line managers and observes assessments. We have excellent reviews of our course delivery and reports of interviews with learners are included in the feedback below.

The Level 4 BTEC Diploma is an integral part of the Level 4 Apprenticeship in Healthcare Science, and apprentices must complete the BTEC Diploma before they can progress to the End Point Assessment (EPA). We no longer deliver apprenticeships but continue to deliver the BTEC Diploma without the apprenticeship; there is no difference in course content, but learners do not undertake the EPA.

Feedback From Apprentices

We sent apprentices who had completed the apprenticeship a questionnaire and here are their responses:

Has your job title and grade or pay scale changed since undertaking the apprenticeship?

Apprentices 1 & 2: Yes we were promoted to level 4, from SHCA (level 3) to Assistant Practitioner in Ophthalmology

Apprentice 3: When I started an apprenticeship, I was a Band 3 ophthalmic technician. Throughout the course, I successfully applied for a Band 4 Senior ophthalmic position. After completing the apprenticeship course, I successfully applied for a Band 5 ophthalmic photographer role.

Apprentice 4: No I am still at the same band (in the same role) as before I started, maybe this will change in the future?

Apprentice 5: Since I have finished my course I have been titled officially as a Senior Ophthalmic Technician. I have been promised to have my promotion this summer to upgrade to Band 5 and I am really looking forward to it.

Has your job role changed, e.g., performing new skills, assessments and investigations, having more responsibilities such as quality assurance, and training other staff? Put anything you think is relevant here.

Apprentices 1 & 2: Training other staff in technician roles as well as training the community hospital staff to perform OCT and VF (apprentice 1); supervising the band 3’s, point of contact for their HCA’s to relay any concerns they would like escalating; point of contact for Zeiss (machines and servicing) (apprentice 1); calibrate the tonometer’s weekly; perform  pachymetry, GAT, nurse-led assessment clinics (macular, glaucoma, diabetic macular, neuro); updating SOP’s (apprentice 1); Van Herrick, slit lamp skills, added drops skills such as Lidocaine combined drop.

Apprentice 3: My job roles and responsibilities changed throughout my career. I gained more responsibility for my workload. I developed new skills, teaching a new staff member, line managing staff, providing high-quality OCT images, running a virtual clinic and reviewing images.

Apprentice 4: My job role has not changed – completing the apprenticeship has not given me more responsibilities or a higher grade. I am still doing the same job I did prior to the apprenticeship. In my own department – there is a sense that another course is more preferable to them (an OCT course) and therefore they do not see potential in me to give me higher grade/responsibility.

Apprentice 5: I have been receiving more positive feedback form my team members, including doctors, managers, colleagues, as well as more thanks from patients and their relatives.

-My mentor who is my Lead Ophthalmic Photographer/techician is giving me more responsibilities to teach new startres and students about their roles and equipments they need to learn. Also get asked about  my opinion more about the new staff, whether they’ve gained their confidence to use equipment on their own and are ready to sign off competency certificates.

Have your behaviours and attitudes changed, e.g., do you feel more confident, have greater self-esteem, can take on new challenges, solve problems etc?

Apprentices 1 & 2: Feel ready for new challenges, grown in confidence and feel staff morale has increased.

Apprentice 3: I am confident in my role and starting to sell belief as I worked hard to get where I am today. I take on new challenges than opportunity arises, as I want to improve my development skills even further.

Apprentice 4: The apprenticeship course has definitely made me think more about reflecting on my everyday activities in and outside of work and given me more scientific knowledge and basis to my role. I have grown with confidence with my experience in my role but have been doing the apprenticeship alongside my own growth within the department so it isn’t all down to the study but the study definitely played a part in giving me more knowledge which i put in to practice within my job role duties. It has been a journey of personal and professional development for sure and I would recommend anyone starting it to really commit to it 100% and keep plowing through, there were moments when i felt overwhelmed by the amount of work to complete but i kept on track and found the layout easy to follow and it is in manageable chunks and reflection is a big part of looking at how far you have come and being willing to step outside of your comfort zone.

Apprentice 5: I have studied nursing back home 25 years ago and worked as a nurse in Turkey; This apprenticeship helped me to recap on my knowledge, remember the information I’ve forgotten and develop a better understanding of the recent viewpoints to new treatments, thoughts and technology as I feel that I am a nurse now. My confidence increased in the sector I work in and I am ready to take new challenges, continue to study for next achievements and take on more responsibilities.

Have attitudes and behaviours of colleagues towards you changed, e.g., do you find doctors and other clinical staff are more likely to seek your opinion and advice etc.?

Apprentices 1 & 2: Other allied health professionals tend to ask us as point of contact for all machines and equipment. Consultants are discussing our nurse-led clinics with us. We are a point of contact for all neuro VF requests from the Endocrine team also.

Apprentice 3:  Some of my colleagues will ask for a piece of advice and ask me to teach them new skills. The doctors always come to me if they need anything, knowing I will help them if I can.

Apprentice 4: Nobody seeks my opinion or advice at my level. I do like to share my knowledge and I am keen to engage with new starters in the team and ensure they are given the support to learn and grow in their role, I find it rewarding to train them and help them gain competencies and confidence within their duties.

Apprentice 5: I work collaboratively more often with Nurse Practitioners and help out with their audits and research. I finish the tasks with more ease with my new knowledge. Some doctors prefer to work with me now as my managements and problem-solving skills also improved; reporting incidents to the relevant departments. Some doctors are looking for me sometimes in the clinic, as they know I can do the best investigative practice at work. My knowledge of anatomy and physiology has improved as the doctors can see better quality of scans and fundus photography to the relevant investigations.

Has the apprenticeship changed how you interact with patients and how patients respond to you?

Apprentices 1 & 2: We already have a rapport with the patients, I don’t feel like that has changed hugely, they are just glad to be seen. Sometimes are happier to be seen by nursing staff as we treat them more holistically.

Apprentice 3: The apprenticeship gave me the skills to continue my career and further development. I learnt so much about how to be a line manager, provide excellent care to our patients, and look after our staff.

Apprentice 4: No I have grown in confidence but cannot put that all down to the apprenticeship, but it has contributed.

Apprentice 5: The course I have done made me aware that I am already doing the right healthcare practice, but now I feel I am professional with less mistakes and more positive feedbacks. The way I walk the corridors more confidently now. I am receiving more verbal and written positive feedback from patients, relatives and team members.

Anything else you think is relevant 

Apprentices 1 & 2: Hugely proud of what we have achieved. Will always be grateful to Rosalind, David and Jane for all their enthusiasm during the course, and continued help and support. Especially as our own manager moved Hospitals which was demoralising at the time, so we were lucky to still had the backing of the AHPO team thank goodness.

Apprentice 4: The course is very informative and there are plenty of materials provided to learners and you have a mentor in your department assigned to you, i was allowed to change Mentor halfway through as my first mentor was not providing any support or guidance at all, so was discussed at review and changed and that helped a lot. I definitely feel proud for having accomplished and completed this apprenticeship – there is a lot of work to complete (as there is with any course of study) but it is manageable if you commit to it and work hard and keep on track. It was a mostly enjoyable course to complete.

Feedback from a learner who completed the Level 4 BTEC Diploma (without the apprenticeship)


How I approached the blended learning study style, what went well and not so well.

The blended learning study style included assignments, work products, witness statements, reflective accounts, presentations, direct observations and oral questioning.

What went well:

While writing assignments and creating presentations, I found it worked best to structure assignments with clearly headed sections to keep the work concise. I also copied the assignment criteria information onto the document whilst working to ensure I met all the criteria.

The individual learning plan provided by my AHPO assessor was invaluable in keeping pace with apprenticeship and enabled me to finish the course within the allotted 2 years.

I had a mentor in the clinic who I could sense-check my approach to work.

Studying for the Oral Questioning visits helped me to learn the relevant subjects better, as I needed to be able to discuss in a face-to-face conversation with my Assessor.

What went not so well:

One challenge was keeping on top of witness statements, especially in year one, learning which work colleagues were best suited to complete them and then reminding them or chasing up the witness statement.

Direct observations were a challenge as we were observing Covid protocols, however my AHPO assessor was able to observe me over teams in some of the early DOPS.

What I found most interesting and what was the hardest.

The subjects that I found most interesting included:

  • Anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology of the visual system.
  • Practical skills training such as imaging the eye, visual field assessments, measuring visual acuity, gaining understanding of why we conduct the tests and interpreting results.
  • My part in planning and conducting an audit, of which information was used to help decide on potential surgical pathway changes.
  • Teaching, training and assessing junior staff.

The subjects that I found the hardest included:

  • Applied Microbiology.
  • Anatomy and physiology of body systems.
  • The nervous system.
  • Development of embryo, birth.

These were areas of learning that were brand new to me and I found the most challenging.

What has changed in my skills now compared to before starting the apprenticeship.

I feel that my leadership, teamwork and teaching skills have definitely developed as I have worked through the apprenticeship. My practical skills, such as imaging the eye, visual field assessments and others have developed and improved and I feel that learning about the visual system has greatly improved my understanding in these areas. My confidence in training others has grown after studying ‘learning’ and how to assess practical skills. During the apprenticeship, I have also started my journey of personal and professional development and utilise reflective practice.

How I am treated within the eye team now compared to before starting the apprenticeship.

When I started the apprenticeship, I was a trainee and the team supported me and treated me as such. As I worked through the second year of the course and especially now that I have completed the apprenticeship, I feel the team dynamic has evolved. Team members now come to me for training and support and I feel that my skills and experience are valued within the group.

Feedback from learners currently undertaking the Level 4 BTEC Diploma (with and without the apprenticeship)

Learner 1: Greater understanding of anatomy and physiology, particularly with regard to abnormalities of the eye and patient symptoms.

Learner 2: Enhanced leadership and management skills which have made her a more effective trainer of junior staff.

Learner 3: Feels much more confident in her work since starting the programme. Broader understanding of how her department’s work fits into the overall healthcare science picture.

Learner 4: Far greater understanding of many aspects of ophthalmology, such as the blood/retinal barrier and patient imaging. Feels much more confident now talking to clinicians in the department.

Learner 5: Now has better research and problem solving skills. Feels more confident in her work.

Feedback from Mentors

Feedback from line manager/mentor of Apprentice 5

It is great news that P has completed her course before time and is about to give her exams soon. During the course period, I saw lots of changes in P. She has developed a lot of confidence and considers minor details and works on them very carefully. Her quality of work has improved a lot and her self-esteem too. I think this course has made her grow professionally. I have seen her taking more interest in the policies and protocols and SOP. She now voluntarily takes interest in management issues and tries to solve some problems by giving suggestions. P is an asset to our unit, and she has more to give to the unit and needs to be utilised by the line managers.

Feedback from line manager and mentor of Apprentices 6 and 7

Having read the Ofsted report, I am quite shocked at how this has been interpreted, and actually would challenge some of the accuracy to what our actual responses were.

We had a teams meeting with the Ofsted inspector, though had to convert this to a telephone call due to IT issues. Myself and Z… (Deputy Clinical Lead of Eye Outpatients) were both present, and able to verify each others accounts and responses given.

In terms of responses, we have found the apprenticeship that our two apprentice ophthalmic technicians have been on to be most beneficial in terms of their own professional development, the department, and most importantly, the patient service.

What has been mitigated from the responses written is the following benefits that we did mention:

  • Apprentices have developed their leadership and management skills throughout the apprenticeship. This was not a major part of their role before the apprenticeship, so a clear change in role directly as a result of learning acquired from the apprenticeship modules. They have been supported in leadership and management skills through dedicated support from 1 x ophthalmic imaging specialist and 1 x registered deputy clinical leader.
  • Apprentices have taken an active lead in teaching and education of new skills for the ophthalmic technician’s, having again shown tremendous development in skills associated with this. These skills are relevant to what has been learnt theoretically, and the apprentices have demonstrated the ability to transpose this into practice. Moreover, they can disseminate knowledge, in interesting ways, utilising IT systems, to facilitate the learning in others.
  • Having recently gone through supervised practice observations modules, I can independently certify that a whole host of new knowledge has been gained, directly as a result of the apprenticeship. The apprentices have undergone protected time for research, to gain a deeper understanding of many ophthalmic related topics, including refraction, imaging and visual field testing. This course has helped them understand the tasks they were previously performing. This better enables the information given to patients. They were both able to illustrate this knowledge through practiced oral questioning, which has been documented in the direct observation templates.
  • In terms of supporting the apprentices, our health roster shows that we have always given the allocated protected study of 20% to each of the apprentices. Furthermore, our allocations show proof of multiple other additional study days/protected time with assessors, whereby they are super-numerary and not counted in the numbers. We also facilitate regular meetings with their course tutor, ourselves and the apprentices via teams, and sometimes in person. We are always all present, and make protected time to have these meetings.
  • On another note, I wish to commend how supportive JT [assessor] from AHPO has been from day 1. This support has been invaluable to both us as mentors, and to the apprentices. Jane has always made time for us when we have had queries, and been a fountain of knowledge, to help guide us all through Ecordia [portfolio]. We really appreciate everything she has done, and is doing.

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