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GOC announces Geoff Harris as new chair

20 Nov 2008

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The Appointments Commission has appointed Dr Geoffrey Harris as the new chair of the General Optical Council (GOC). He replaces Rosie Varley who retires at the end of December after ten years in the role.

Dr Harris’s appointment is from 1 January 2009 to 31 March 2009. It is expected that as the incumbent chair, he will be appointed for a further four years from 1 April 2009, once the new Constitution Order has received parliamentary approval. Appointed to the GOC in 2004 as a Privy Council nominee, Dr Harris is currently the Council’s deputy chair.

On his appointment, Dr Harris said: “I am honoured to have been given the opportunity to lead the GOC at a time when healthcare regulation is high on the public agenda. The GOC has always been a progressive organisation that is not afraid to adapt, challenge, and lead the way. I look forward to working with the Council to ensure that we continue to anticipate and shape developments in this area in the interests of public safety.”

Acting chief executive and registrar, Dian Taylor welcomed the announcement: “Geoff brings a wealth of experience to the role. His understanding and experience of optical regulation is second to none, and his commitment to public protection is unwavering. I’m confident that under his leadership the new Council will be well-equipped to tackle the challenges ahead.”

The current Council chair, Rosie Varley, commented: “I am delighted to be handing over the role of chair to someone as well-respected as Geoff. His sound judgement, good standing, and exceptional track record in governance mean the GOC will be in good hands.”

Until April 2003, Dr Harris was a non executive director of Stoke Mandeville Hospital NHS Trust, covering both the general hospital and the National Spinal Injuries Centre. He is a former non executive director and chairman of Buckinghamshire Mental Health NHS Trust, and a former member of the Public Health Laboratory Service. Dr Harris also chairs the South Central Strategic Health Authority.

The Appointments Commission has managed the recruitment, selection and appointments process. The appointment was made on merit and political activity plays no part in the selection process. However, in accordance with the original Nolan recommendations, there is a requirement for appointees’ political activity (if any declared) to be made public. Dr Harris has not declared any political activity in the last five years.


For further information please contact:
Clare Millington
Communications Officer
General Optical Council
t: 020 7307 3473

About the General Optical Council:
The GOC is the regulator for the optical professions in the UK. Its purpose is to protect the public by promoting high standards of education and conduct amongst opticians. The Council currently registers around 22,000 optometrists, dispensing opticians, student opticians and optical businesses.

1 It is proposed within the draft General Optical Council (Constitution) Order 2008 that the person who is Chair on 31 March 2009 will continue in this role when the new Council comes into force on 1 April 2009. Dr Harris’s appointment from 1 April has been agreed in principle and will be formalised as soon as the General Optical Council (Constitution) Order 2008 is enacted. Further information is available on the Department of Health’s website at
2 The chair will be paid an annual honorarium of £35,000.
3 As chair of the NHS South Central Strategic Health Authority, Dr Harris receives an annual honorarium of £42,000. His appointment is from 2006 to 2010. As a member of the General Optical Council (from 2004 to 2008) he receives a remuneration of £270 per day.
4 As a result of the Government’s White Paper on healthcare regulation (published in 2007), a reconstituted Council will take up office from 1 April 2009. The new Council will have 12 members, including the new Chair, made up as follows:

• Six registrant members (that is members who are registered optometrists or registered dispensing opticians); and

• Six lay members, including the Chair (currently defined as members who are not and never have been registered in a register, or a director of a body corporate registered in a register, maintained by the Council, and do not hold qualifications which would entitle them to apply for registration in one of the registers maintained under section 7 or 8B [of the Opticians Act 1989].

5. A photo of Dr Geoff Harris is available on request.

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