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News from 17 June Council

22 Jun 2010

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Summary of GOC’s audited accounts 2009-10

  • Council received the audited accounts for the financial year ending 31 March 2010. 
  • The Executive reported an improvement of a reduction in budgeted expenditure of £228,000. This was achieved by the GOC management from a combination of tight budgetary control, prioritisation of work and cost savings.
  • The former Council budgeted for a break-even position for the year 2009-10, after taxation and transfer from change management reserve. 
  • The new Council updated the budget in July 2009 to a deficit of £289,000 based on its own Business Plan.
  • The actual outcome for the year is a deficit of £61,000; a net improvement of £228,000.

Progress is made on implementing revalidation

  • Members received a progress report on the implementation of a revalidation scheme for optometrists and dispensing opticians.
  • Following the research reports commissioned by the GOC into risk and employer appraisal, and the feedback gained at a CET stakeholder event in March, at the February meeting of Council it was noted that the Continuing Education and Training (CET) scheme would be developed to provide a sound evidence-base for revalidation.
  • Currently, registrants are able to gain their CET points in any competency area and through any modality (lectures, workshops, distance learning etc.) of their choice. It is therefore possible for registrants to gain their minimum CET requirement in a single competency area and through just one modality (eg distance learning). It is intended that this existing CET model be developed into a scheme for revalidation, to reflect and address key risk areas.
  • With this development in mind, the minimum requirements for CET in future cycles are being developed encompassing the following:
  • For optometrists:
    • An assessment of clinical skills around methods of ocular examination and ocular disease;
    • Peer review’ CET involving the review of patient records and decision making;, and
    • The requirement that CET be completed in key competency areas such as communication; professional conduct.
  • For dispensing opticians:
    • Paediatric dispensing;
    • Dispensing to the visually impaired and registered blind; and
    • The requirement that CET be completed in key competency areas such as communication and professional conduct.
  • Requirements are also being considered for specialty areas, and a thorough review is being undertaken of the process and criteria by which CET events are approved. An event is being held in July to listen to the views of CET providers.

GOC not ruling out a Licence to Practise

  • Council discussed options around whether to introduce a Licence to Practise model as part of its plans for revalidation. 
  • Members agreed that they would continue to explore the introduction of the Licence to Practise options for those active in clinical practise.
  • Further proposals will be prepared for September. 
  • The discussion follows the GOC’s consultation which considered three options for how the GOC might take forward revalidation, taking into account the different roles played by dispensing opticians and optometrists in optical practice, academia, and research etc. The three options were as follows:
    • Option 1: Only those active in clinical practice are revalidated (identified by their having a Licence to Practise)
    • Option 2: All registrants are revalidated
    • Option 3: All registrants are revalidated but to different degrees.
  • The GOC’s Revalidation Working Group recognised that the arguments were finely balanced between the three options. The Group was conscious of the need for further research to ascertain the number of registrants who would not be required to have a Licence to Practise should such a model be introduced (option 1), and that there was an argument that even those in purely managerial or administrative roles should still take steps to make sure that they were up-to-date with clinical practice at the threshold level required for registration.
  • The Group also noted concern that the introduction of the Licence to Practise model would introduce further complexity to the regulatory regime which might confuse patients, the public, and employers.
  • However, by continuing to explore the Licence to Practise route, this gives the GOC further options to build a revalidation scheme that is proportionate to the different degrees of risk for different registrants.
  • Once full details of revalidation requirements are developed, further work will be carried out to determine how different groups will be revalidated according to their scope of practice, and the risks involved.

Taking forward the GOC’s strategic plan 2010-15

  • The Council’s 2010-15 strategy came into effect on 1 April, and the strategy outlines the following three strategic priorities:
    • Develop the regulatory framework to support UK eye care in delivering safe, high quality care which meets society’s needs and expectations; 
    • Continue to modernise our core functions and put in place systems for improvement to become more efficient and more effective; 
    • Promote a wider understanding of our role and engage stakeholders (including the public, patients, registrants, educators and their representatives) in our work.
  • In May, Council and staff met to discuss the mechanisms by which these priorities could now be taken forward.
  • Following these discussions, Council considered proposals for this mechanism, and agreed that Council will act as the ‘project management board’, responsible for measuring performance delivery against strategic objectives. Two workstream groups will be established to set the agenda and establish the workplan for operational delivery. These groups would be made up of both Council members and staff. Implementation will be carried out by GOC staff, drawing on the relevant expertise from committees, stakeholder reference groups, optical bodies, and other key stakeholders as appropriate.

Measuring GOC performance

  • Council received a quarterly report on the delivery of key projects outlined in the annual 2010-11 business plan. Reports included:
  • Improving witness and complainant support: guidance documents are being prepared for publication to offer increased guidance to explain what happens if you are asked by the GOC to be a witness at a hearing of the Fitness to Practise Committee. This guidance will be available from – the anticipated publication date is July 2010. The guidance available to complainants (both in the How to complain about an optician booklet and on the GOC’s website) has been recently reviewed and updated and is also available from
  • Implementing the stakeholder engagement strategy: the last phase of the strategy is to pilot two stakeholder reference groups (SRGs). One group will be made up of members of the public and patients, the other with optical professionals and those with an optical background. The SRGs will be asked to contribute feedback, suggestions, and to offer their experiences as an optical professional/ member of the public. This will offer another avenue through which the GOC gains stakeholder input into areas of its work. Participation will be mainly from home, through online ‘e-engagement’ exercises. Volunteers will have the opportunity to contribute to a variety of projects such as:
    • Providing feedback on information leaflets for either patients or registrants;
    • Testing the usability of sections of the website;
    • Suggestions for improving consultation questions; and
    • Offering opinions on GOC policies, such as revalidation.
  • The closing date for applications was 15 June, and the groups will meet on 22 September for an introduction to the GOC.
  • Council also considered the high-level KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) against work set out in the 2010-11 business plan. These measures will support Council in its role to monitor the delivery of core work across all areas of the organisation: standards, education, HR, communications and information, registration, FTP, hearings and finance. It was agreed that a small group of Council members work with the Executive on refining the KPIs for implementation over the coming months.

Revisions to competencies

  • The GOC’s Standards Committee has led a comprehensive review of the competencies required for qualification as an optometrist, dispensing optician, and dispensing optician with the contact lens practice specialty.
  • The competencies aim to provide a basis against which valid and reliable judgments can be made about an individual’s professional competence. 
  • As part of its review, the Committee worked closely with ABDO and the College of Optometrists, who provided detailed proposals for revisions in certain areas. Two separate consultations with key stakeholders have also taken place. 
  • One of the key revisions to the competencies is the introduction of a common structure and terminology between the competencies. This change will help to ensure competencies are articulated and used consistently across the UK optical community. This will also aid career movement for registrants who wish to progress between the two professions. 
  • The influential work of the World Council of Optometry (WCO) and Optometrists Association Australia (OAA) has also informed the new competencies. A unified competency framework for the UK that takes on board best practice elsewhere will benefit registrants who wish to practise overseas, as it will aid the comparison of competency achievements between those qualifying in the UK and overseas.

Protocol for complaints against Council members and the GOC

  • The Council’s protocol for complaints made against the Council, Council members or its staff was approved in 2005.
  • This existing protocol has recently been reviewed by the Audit Committee and a number of changes have been made to reflect good governance practice. Changes are also necessary to reflect changes to the Council’s constitutional arrangements.
  • The changes include:
    • Complaints against individual Council members should be dealt with under a separate protocol with the Council Chair, rather than the registrar, initially considering the complaint.
    • Where the complaint is serious and/or cannot be resolved informally, or where the complaint is against the Chair, a panel of Council members will consider the complaint and make a report to the Council who decide on what action, if any, to take.
    • Complaints made against the Registrar are considered by the Chair of Council.
    • For complaints relating to the Council as a whole, staff or committee members, where the Registrar or the Audit Committee proposes that a change to the Council’s procedures are required, recommendations are made directly to Council.

Meeting with Walter Merricks, Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator (OHPA)

  • OHPA will be the new, independent body responsible for making decisions on fitness to practise cases brought forward by the General Medical Council (GMC) from April 2011 and, in time, the GOC after 2012.
  • Council met with Walter Merricks, the Chair of OHPA. He briefed Council privately on the role of OHPA before answering specific questions in the public meeting.
  • A series of consultations will be launched in August about the rules that will govern OHPA.
  • OHPA will be independent from the GOC.
  • Merricks spoke about the importance of OHPA communicating the changes to the public.
  • OHPA will develop a model to allocate costs fairly and proportionately.
  • OHPA will be looking to make a smooth transition of powers and will not be making major changes straight away.
  • OHPA will be working closely with the GOC to make arrangements for the transfer of adjudication powers, in due course following April 2011 when the transfer of the GMC adjudication powers has been completed.

Equality and diversity action plan 2010-11

  • The Equality and Diversity action plan 2010-12 has been updated, and now includes the additional strands which come into effect from 2011 under the new Equality Duty. These are age, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and belief.

CHRE performance review 2009-10

  • Members were reminded that the CHRE’s report for 2009-10 is due to be published in early July. It will be available from, and also from the GOC’s own website,

Next meeting: Thursday, 23 September 2010, 41 Harley Street.

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