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GOC clarifies requirements for sale and supply of optical appliances

30 Oct 2006

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General Optical Council press release, 30 October 2006

For immediate release

GOC clarifies requirements for sale and supply of optical appliances

The General Optical Council (GOC) today met with representatives of the optical professional and representative bodies to explain how it will interpret the law on sale and supply of spectacles and contact lenses.

The meeting was held in response to concerns reported to the Council that some glasses and contact lenses were being sold outside the legal framework designed to protect the public. Sales of some types of spectacles and all contact lenses must be carried out with the involvement of a registered optometrist, dispensing optician or medical practitioner.

GOC Chairman Rosie Varley said: “The General Optical Council has a critical role to play in ensuring that the public have freedom of choice in buying spectacles and contact lenses, provided that the proper safeguards are in place. The regulations are designed to protect consumers from eye health problems by ensuring that qualified professionals are involved in prescribing and selling spectacles and contact lenses.”

The Council stated the circumstances in which sales must be carried out under the ‘supervision’ of a registered practitioner and those which must be carried out under the ‘general direction’ of a registered practitioner. The statement includes a clarification of the requirements relating to sales of plano (zero powered) contact lenses. Plano lenses must be sold under the supervision of a registered optician or doctor, unlike sight correcting (powered) lenses which can be sold under the less stringent requirement for ‘general direction’. However, customers buying corrective lenses must have a valid ‘specification’ provided by their optician following an eye test and a fitting for contact lenses.

The clarification has been issued following consideration of expert advice. The Council advises suppliers to take immediate steps to ensure that their procedures met the appropriate requirements.

The College of Optometrists and the Association of British Dispensing Opticians confirmed that they will review guidance to the professions to clarify any issues relating to what is expected of a professional supervising or directing sales of spectacles or contact lenses.

Following the issue of the Council’s statement, and any resulting guidance produced in relation to supervision and general direction, suppliers and practitioners will be given an appropriate period of time to comply with requirements. Suppliers and practitioners will have to show they meet these requirements. Failure to comply may result in formal action being taken by the GOC or others. There will be no grace period for suppliers failing to verify specifications in accordance with the legislation.

Acrobat Reader icon Statement on sale and supply of optical appliances

ENDS

For further information please contact:
Kate Fielding
Communications Manager
General Optical Council
t: 020 7307 3472
m: 07763 210019
e: kfielding@optical.org


Notes to editors:

1. The full text of the GOC statement on the sale and supply of optical appliances is available from the Council’s website, www.optical.org. The Opticians Act 1989 and the Rules and Regulations are also available from the GOC website

2. The meeting was attended by representatives of the College of Optometrists, the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, the Association of Optometrists, the Federation of Ophthalmic and Dispensing Opticians, the Association of Contact Lens Manufacturers, the British Contact Lens Association, the General Medical Council, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and the Department of Health.

3. Allegations of a criminal offence under the Opticians Act are handled in accordance with the Council’s Protocol for the Investigation and Prosecution of Criminal Offences.

4. Concerns regarding a registered optometrist or dispensing optician’s fitness to practise, the fitness of student optometrists and dispensing opticians to undertake training or the fitness of corporate bodies to carry on business are investigated by the Council's solicitors. Information about the relevant procedures is available from the GOC website.

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.

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