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Medical Ophthalmology

About the specialty

Medical Ophthalmology involves the medical assessment, investigation, diagnosis and management of disorders affecting vision, particularly:

  • Inflammatory disorders affecting vision (e.g. uveitis, scleritis, corneal graft rejection, systemic vasculitis
  • Vascular disorders affecting vision (e.g. diabetes, arteriosclerosis, hypertension, stroke)
  • Neurological disorders affecting vision (e.g. multiple sclerosis, stroke, pituitary disorders, thyroid eye disease)
  • Public visual health (e.g. diabetic retinopathy screening)

Ophthalmic physicians need to have varied clinical skills beyond expertise in the assessment and diagnosis of visual symptoms and signs. They must have expertise in immunosuppression, neurology and cardiovascular medicine. In addition many ophthalmic physicians will be involved in managing large diabetic retinopathy screening programmes, which require organisational and public health skills. Some will be required to manage retina-specific disorders requiring practical skills such as laser therapy and intra-ocular injections.

Ophthalmic medicine is predominantly out-patient based. The workload of an ophthalmic physician is varied ranging from the personal delivery of care such as laser therapy for diabetic retinopathy through to the intellectual challenge of neuro-ophthalmic disorders. It is also very rewarding with the majority of conditions responsive to therapy.

Entry into Medical Ophthalmology training is possible following successful completion of both a foundation programme and a core training programme. There are three possible core training programmes:

  • Internal Medicine (IM) Stage 1 - 2 years
  • Acute Care Common Stem - Internal Medicine (ACCS-IM) - 3 years
  • Ophthalmic Specialist Training (OST) - ST1 & ST2 training and FRCOphth part 1


The curriculum for each specialty defines the process of training and the competencies needed for the award of a certificate of completion of training (CCT). The curriculum includes the assessment system for measuring trainees’ progress comprising workplace based assessment and knowledge based assessment.

The 2021 curriculum appears below. Please see the ARCP decision aid and guidance sections below for supporting documents. 

Medical Ophthalmology 2021 Training Curriculum

Doctors who entered training from August 2021 and those transferring to the new curriculum should refer to the 2021 curriculum. Trainees who are not transferring will remain on the 2015 curriculum.

Previous versions of the curriculum are no longer available online but copies can be requested from

ARCP Decision Aids

The ARCP decision aid for each specialty defines the targets that have to be achieved for a satisfactory ARCP outcome at the end of each training year. 

The ARCP decision aid has been updated with guidance on assessment of medical placements. In addition, amendments have been made to the examination requirements for this year in recognition of the impact of the pandemic:

•    ST4 (IM entry) trainee must have attempted FRCOphth part 1 by the end of ST4
•    ST5 Trainees must have passed both MRCP and FRCOphth to progress to ST6

Medical Ophthalmology 2021 Training Curriculum Decision Aid - updated April 2022

The ARCP decision aid below should be used for trainees remaining on the 2015 curriculum. 

Medical Ophthalmology 2015 ARCP Decision Aid