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GOC responds to AOP and ABDO on retention fees

20 Aug 2010

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The GOC has responded to AOP and ABDO comments made in the Optician and Optometry Today journals. Our full response is as follows:  

Letter to the Editor

Sir,

I refer to comments made by the AOP and ABDO in last week’s article, ‘GOC told to cut costs before raising fees’ (13.8.10). I find the idea that the GOC has any desire or intention to “hurt the profession”, as Bob Hughes suggests, both extraordinary and ill-founded. On the contrary, the GOC and the profession have a shared interest in protecting the health of the public and we would all do well to focus on that. Notwithstanding, I would like to inject some facts into the fees debate.

As our CEO has made clear, the Council will be looking at the budget in November, but there are already some certainties:

1) The Government’ s proposal for the UK healthcare regulators to fund the cost of the CHRE will not have any impact on the GOC’s costs for 2011-12; these new funding arrangements will not take effect until at least 2013.

2) Assuming the CHRE’s costs are charged proportionately to each of the healthcare regulators, the result would be a far cry from the “massive increases” suggested by the AOP. Furthermore, the new funding arrangements will change our relationship with the CHRE and we will be looking to ensure they represent value for money.

3) The two consecutive retention fee increases for 2009-10 and 2010-11 were a direct consequence of implementing the previous Government’s healthcare reform programmes, which included modernisation of the Council’s systems, structures and premises. The vast majority of this work is now complete and is already bringing some efficiencies, with the promise of more to come. There has never been any suggestion that a similar increase would be required in 2011-12.

4) The GOC is committed to driving down internal costs to minimise the financial burden placed on registrants. This is evidenced by the financial result in the audited accounts for the year ended 31 March 2010: the new Council and its management achieved a net improvement of £208,000 on the budgeted position for 2009-10 through a combination of tight budgetary control and cost savings.

Turning to ABDO’s comments on staged payments, again it is important to understand the facts.

1) Notwithstanding that the majority of dispensing opticians have their retention fees paid or reimbursed by their employers, we are extremely conscious of the effect the previous years’ fee increases have had on registrants. But introducing a staged payment system is not self evidently better when all the costs and benefits are weighed up. In particular, there would be costs for adapting systems, and new administrative and processing costs for missed payments, which could themselves increase the cost of regulation. There would also be a need for legislative change.

2) This is why, as ABDO is already aware, we are carrying out a detailed assessment to determine the full costs, and potential risks and benefits of introducing staged payments, and the likely effect overall on retention fees.

The Council will consider the initial findings at its meeting in September 2010.

Overall, the GOC remains acutely aware of the financial burden on registrants, even more so in the current economic climate. The Council are committed to taking full account of this in our budgeting for 2011-12. I would counsel patience until decisions are made in September on staged payments, and in November on budgets.

Anna Bradley
Interim Chair

 

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