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GOC publishes fitness to practise guidance for employers

30 Nov 2011

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The General Optical Council (GOC) is today launching guidance targeted at optical employers, to explain what they should do if they have concerns about a GOC registrant’s fitness to practise.

The guidance outlines what is expected of those employing registered optometrists, dispensing opticians and students. It explains the sorts of complaints the GOC can and can’t deal with, what happens if a fitness to practise complaint is made against a registered employee, and what information the GOC can share with the employer about the allegation. The investigation process is also set out in full, to ensure employers are informed about each step of the process.

Samantha Peters, GOC Chief Executive and Registrar explained the importance of clear guidance for optical employers: “This guidance is designed to equip businesses and individuals with the tools they need to take appropriate action if they have concerns about a registrant’s fitness to practise. It’s our job to provide registrants and employers with relevant information and advice, so they know exactly what is expected of them.

She continued: “We appreciate that it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between a disciplinary issue in an employment context, and a potential fitness to practise investigation - so the guidance has been designed to help employers make those decisions.”

Anyone employing a GOC registrant must act quickly to protect patients if they have information which could potentially mean the registrant lacks the skills, knowledge, character or health to practise safely and effectively, or be trusted to act legally. The GOC recommends that employers should firstly try to address any concerns at a practice or business level. If this approach is not successful, NHS employers should report their concern to their local primary care organisation. However, employers are urged to contact the GOC straight away if:

• taking action at a local level would not be practical
• action at a local level has failed
• the problem is so serious that the GOC clearly needs to be involved
• you are afraid of victimisation or a cover up

Registrants themselves also have an obligation to let the GOC know if there are any issues that may have an impact on their fitness to practise. For example, if they have been convicted of a criminal offence, or are barred from working with children and/ or vulnerable adults.

The guidance is available to download in full from the GOC’s website.

ENDS

For further information please contact:
Clare March
Communications Manager
General Optical Council
t: 020 7307 3473
e: cmarch@optical.org

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. The GOC can only investigate concerns about fitness to practise issues. These could be:
• poor professional performance, such as failing to notice signs of eye disease
• failing to maintain appropriate records
• physical or mental health problems affecting someone’s work
• inappropriate behaviour, such as violence or sexual assault
• being under the influence of alcohol or drugs at work
• fraud or dishonesty
• a criminal conviction or caution

We cannot:
• arrange refunds or compensation
• mediate between a registrant and a patient
• offer legal advice in an employment law context or otherwise
• consider employment issues such as personality conflicts, poor timekeeping; absence from work, or contractual disputes

2. If you own or manage a practice which employs student optometrists or student dispensing opticians, any concerns about their clinical performance should be raised with their college supervisor or professional body.

3. Anyone can complain to the GOC if they think one of our registrants is not fit to practise. We receive complaints from members of the public, patients, carers, employers, the police and other registrants. The GOC’s guidance is aimed specifically at employers.

4. Decisions taken by the Fitness to Practise Committee are reviewed by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) which oversees our work. The CHRE can ask the High Court to review a decision if they decide that it is too lenient. If the registrant thinks that the Fitness to Practise Committee’s decision is unfair, they can appeal against it in the High Court.
 

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