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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 investigation forms and 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.

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 Investigation Committee will consider the complaint.

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

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

•  Take no further action (the Investigation Committee 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.
•  Invite the registrant to attend a voluntary performance review
•  Refer the allegation to the Fitness to Practise Committee, which will usually hold a public hearing to decide what action to take.

The GOC has published an Investigation Committee guidance document, to encourage consistent decision-making by the committee:

Acrobat Reader icon Investigation Committee guidance

Before it can decide what action to take, the Investigation Committee may need further information. The Committee may ask for further investigation to be carried out (such as an assessment of the registrant’s health or performance). The GOC has produced separate guidance about performance assessments.

Interim orders

If the Investigation Committee considers 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 to ask the Fitness to Practise Committee to impose 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 Investigation Committee has referred a case to the Fitness to Practise Committee, it may consider an application, from the registrant or the Council, as to whether the investigation should be terminated.

The below guidance is intended to assist those making or determining applications for review, by describing the procedure used by the General Optical Council.

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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Standards of practice

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Our standards of practice explain what is expected of our registrants.  

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Our complaints process

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