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The investigation process

This page explains the key steps in our investigation process: 

Initial action on receiving a complaint

We acknowledge receipt of completed Referral Forms and may undertake some preliminary enquiries (we refer to this process as 'triage'). If we decide to open a formal investigation we will notify the GOC registrant(s) involved that a complaint against them is being investigated.

Investigating the complaint

We will gather evidence, which may include obtaining copies of clinical records from optical practices or hospitals. We may also obtain witness statements from the person making the complaint (“the complainant”) or other witnesses and we may obtain independent expert clinical opinion.

We send all the evidence that has been gathered to the GOC registrant(s) and give them an opportunity to make written representations about the complaint. Once the complainant has been given an opportunity to comment on the registrant(s)’ written representations, the complaint will be considered by two case examiners (one registrant and one lay).

Case Examiner Consideration

When considering the complaint, the case examiners are provided with copies of: the investigation form; all the evidence; the registrant(s)’ representations and any comments made by the complainant.

Case examiners will decide whether each complaint should be referred to the independent Fitness to Practise Committee. The case examiners may decide to:

•  Take no further action (they may at the same time provide advice to the registrant about their future practice/conduct)
•  Issue a warning to the registrant. The GOC has produced separate guidance in relation to warnings.
•  Refer the allegation to the Fitness to Practise Committee, which will usually hold a public hearing to decide what action to take.

•  Refer the case to the Investigation Committee if they cannot agree or if they require an assessment of the registrant's health or performance.

The GOC publishes guidance for case examiners.

Consideration by the Investigation Committee

The Investigation Committee is made up of GOC registrants and lay members (people who are not optically trained).

See details of the current committee members

The Investigation Committee deals with cases where case examiners cannot agree or where case examiners have requested an assessment of the registrant's health or performance. Where the Committee is required to make a decision about whether or not to refer the case to the Fitness to Practise Committee it has the same decision-making powers as the case examiners (see above).

The GOC has produced separate guidance about performance assessments.

The GOC also publishes guidance for the Investigation Committee to follow when making decisions. 

Interim orders

If the case examiners or Investigation Committee consider that a GOC registrant may be a risk to the public or themselves, or if they think there is another reason that is in the public interest, they can instruct the GOC registrar to refer the case to the Fitness to Practise Committee to consider the imposition of an interim order that either: immediately suspends the registrant from the register; or restricts the work the registrant is allowed to do by imposing conditions on their ability to practise; until the complaint against the registrant has been considered at a public hearing.

Termination of referral

After the case examiners or Investigation Committee has referred a case to the Fitness to Practise Committee, case examiners may consider an application, from the registrant or the Council, as to whether the referral should be terminated.

The GOC publishes guidance to assist those making or determining applications for review.

What action can the Fitness to Practise Committee take?

You can find more information about the Fitness to Practise Committee’s hearings process in the document below.

Acrobat Reader icon How hearings work

If the Fitness to Practise Committee decides that a registrant’s fitness to practise is not impaired the Committee may decide to give the registrant a warning about their future behaviour or performance.

If the Fitness to Practise Committee decide that the registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, they can take one of the following actions:

Order the registrant’s removal from the GOC register

This is sometimes referred to as ‘erasure’ or ‘striking-off’. The registrant’s name is removed from the GOC’s register (once the period in which they can appeal the order for removal). That means that the individual can no longer practise/train/run a GOC-registered business.

There is a separate process for considering applications for restoration to one of the GOC’s registers by individuals whose names have been removed from the GOC registers as the result of a Fitness to Practise Committee hearing. Find out more about this process.

Suspend the registrant

This means that the registrant’s name will be temporarily removed from the register (for a period of up to 12 months) and they will not be able to practise/train until the suspension period has ended.

Impose conditions on the registrant’s registration

This means that the registrant will only be able to continue practising (during the period set by the Fitness to Practise Committee – a maximum of three years) if they comply with conditions that the Fitness to Practise Committee sets (such conditions may include a requirement to do specific training or only working under supervision). The Fitness to Practise Committee will review the registrant’s compliance with the conditions at regular intervals.

Impose a financial penalty

The Fitness to Practise Committee can impose a fine of up to £50,000 on a registrant.

Please see the investigation process flowchart for a visual depiction of the process:

Acrobat Reader icon Investigation process flowchart

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