The Return of the Edinburgh FOCUS Course – A Review

Husnain Shah


The Edinburgh “Foundation Course in Ophthalmology” (FOCUS) is a two-day clinical skills course that has been running annually since 2007 – returning after a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19 restrictions. 

It was started by Edinburgh ophthalmology trainees with the aim of equipping incoming ST1 doctors with the skills and knowledge necessary to transition smoothly into training. Nowadays, the course attracts not just prospective trainees, but medical students, and other healthcare professionals allied with ophthalmology.


The course takes place at Novotel Edinburgh Central Hotel and the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion (PAEP). The PAEP is a specialist eye treatment centre, associated with the University of Edinburgh. It was founded by John Argyll Robertson, the father of the better-known Douglas Argyll Robertson who described the characteristic pupil of neurosyphilis which bears his name. 


This year the course ran between Friday 11th & Saturday 12th November.

The course began at 9 am, and finished by 5 pm on both days. Each day was divided into 4 main sessions. Each session was focussed on either condensed lecture material or hands-on practicals. 

Lecture topics included basic eye anatomy, ophthalmological history taking, and common ophthalmological presentations. Skills taught included operation of a slit lamp, indirect ophthalmoscopy, and simulated intraocular foreign body removal.

In addition, a session on the ophthalmology specialty training (OST) application was included. Tailored portfolio assessment and advice was offered to delegates who submitted their portfolios in advance.


The cost of the course was £475 (£450 if booked before mid-October). Included in this cost was catering and a complementary dinner at Howie’s Restaurant on Friday evening.

FOCUS delegates were also offered a 10% discount to stay at the Novotel Edinburgh.


The course offers a broad overview of ophthalmology. It focusses on the most important topics and skills for starting as a trainee. It is well paced, never feeling too slow or too rushed.

The lecture material is well-delivered, albeit pitched at the very beginner level.

The clinical skills section of the course is where it truly shines. The sessions are trainee-led, with four delegates to a group, which means that everyone receives attention, and there is ample opportunity for practice. In particular, plenty of time is spent at the slit-lamp. Best of all, real patients with real eye pathology kindly offer their time to be examined.

A special mention goes to the catering, which is excellent. Snacks and warm refreshments are provided throughout the day, and hot food is served daily. No cold sandwiches to be seen!

Closing Remarks

Overall, attending Edinburgh FOCUS was an excellent experience and one that I was recommend to anyone with an interest in ophthalmology training. I felt much more confident in my clinical skills by the end.

The people running the course are friendly and approachable, and it seems to attract a good crowd of people. It’s a nice opportunity to meet your (hopefully) future colleagues.

The FOCUS course runs once a year, therefore it would next be expected to run in Autumn 2023.

Places on the course are strictly limited to 24; therefore, if you are interested in attending it is sensible to book early.

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