Interview with FTP Director
General Optical Council eBulletin 42
June 2019

Interview with Dionne Spence, Director of Casework and Resolution

What is Fitness to practise?

 Fitness to practise (FTP) is a requirement for all practising eye care professionals, but what does it mean? Essentially, that as an eyecare professional you have the requisite skills, knowledge, character and health to practise safely and effectively. Our Standards  of Practice for optometrists and dispensing opticians set out the professional standards eye care professionals must uphold in order to be registered to practise in the UK.

We sat down with Dionne Spence (Director of Casework and Resolutions) to help us separate the facts and the fiction of FTP.

Do complaints from members of the public always lead to FTP investigations?

Dionne: No, they do not. In the last year just under 53% of complaints led to us opening an FTP investigation. The fact is not all complaints warrant an FTP investigation. Every time we receive a complaint, we use our new acceptance criteria to help assess if the complaint qualifies as an allegation of impaired fitness to practice as defined by law. If a complaint does not meet the acceptance criteria, we will not open an investigation and the matter will be closed. Occasionally, we refer complaints to The Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS), they deal with complaints from consumers about glasses and contact lenses and /or the service provided.

How often are registrants removed from the register?

Dionne: It happens far less often than registrants might imagine. In the last three years we have opened 790 investigations, and of those only a very tiny percentage (2%), have led to registrants being erased from the register following an FTP hearing. This equates to around 0.05 of our registrant population. Removals only happen in the most serious cases and rarely for clinical errors

What types of FTP cases are most common?

Dionne: We deal with a range of cases. In the last year 51% of the cases we opened concerned clinical errors, 30% related to conduct, 14% involved registrants receiving cautions/convictions and 5% related to registrant’s health. However, it is important to remember that 83% of cases that we opened last year did not proceed to an FTP hearing.

What would registrants be surprised to learn about FTP?

Dionne: At the GOC, FTP is part of a wider team which includes lawyers who provide our in-house legal advice on policy matters and legislative reform. We also have a dedicated team who investigate complaints about illegal practice, such as misuse of protected titles or UK based sales of zero powered contact lenses. We work with a number of other agencies to support our core function of public protection.

Despite having limited statutory powers, we do our best to produce results. Recently our Illegal Practice team worked successfully alongside the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), who took action against a company which promoted zero-powered contact lenses on social media. Stopping illegal practice is important to protect the public, so working with partner organisations such as the ASA and Trading Standards is vital. Optical professional bodies also play an important role.

Can you tell us about any of your plans or goals for FTP?

Dionne: I would like to help registrants avoid complaints and I also want to foster a greater understanding of FTP processes.  Improving the time it takes for us to investigate FTP concerns about our registrants is central to my agenda. Forefront of my mind are the people at the heart of the process. We must be mindful and responsive of the impact this necessary and important function has on all parties. Closer working with our stakeholders and improving our communication flows are critical to this.

Public protection is our function. People are our business, but we are not the bogeyman!


To find out more about FTP visit our website.


Welcome to eBulletin

Education Strategic Review update

Interview with Dionne Spence, Director of Casework and Resolution

Reflective practice

Speaking up for improvement

Love Your Lenses week 2019: Highlights

Business Standards update

News in Brief

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