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News from 18 November Council

18 Nov 2009

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GOC draft strategy 2010-15 approved

  • Council approved the draft strategic plan for 2010-15. The finalised strategy will guide the Council’s work over the next five years, beginning 1 April 2010.
  • The draft strategy has been formulated following an initial six-month open consultation. Since April, members have received presentations from key stakeholder organisations outlining their views on the GOC’s future work priorities. The following organisations delivered presentations: The Macular Disease Society; Action Against Medical Accidents; UK Vision strategy; the Association of British Dispensing Opticians; the Association of Optometrists; the European Council of Optometry and Optics; the Federation of Ophthalmic and Dispensing Opticians; The College of Optometrists; and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
  • The current strategy consultation (which launched in April) will be extended, to invite feedback on the approved draft strategy document. The consultation period will run until February 2010.
  • The draft strategic five-year plan (2010-15) has three strategic priorities:
    • Continue to modernise our core functions and put in place systems for improvement to become more efficient and more effective (for example in registration and FTP);
    • Develop the regulatory framework to support UK eyecare in delivering safe, high-quality care which meets society’s needs and expectations; and
    • Continue to promote a wider understanding of our role and engage stakeholders in our work.
  • Patients and the public, registrants, optical bodies, and anyone with an interest in the Council’s work is encouraged to respond to the consultation which will be available from www.optical.org 

Members approve draft business plan and budget 2010-11

  • Council approved the draft business plan for the 2010-11 financial year. The plan outlines key projects and activities to deliver Council’s strategic priorities.

Budget 2010-11

  • Expenditure for next year is forecast at £5.7 million.
  • The greatest area of expenditure is fitness to practise, followed by support services (IT, finance, office costs), then registration.
  • FTP costs have increased due to a 15 per cent rise in the number of case files opened in 2009, compared to 2008. In addition, more cases are being referred for health and performance assessments, and more expert reports are being prepared. These changes benefit registrants as they allow alternative and supportive approaches to fitness to practise issues to be considered.
  • Also in FTP, an electronic case management system will be introduced, along with additional resources to reduce the time taken to investigate complaints.
  • Registration costs have increased due to implementing an online retention system. This will provide improved customer service, and in the long term, should result in cost savings, particularly if we are able to phase out the existing paper system.
  • Additional costs in support services include recruiting new members of the FTP panel; training for our FTP and education visitor panels; and additional investment in IT.


GOC agrees differential retention fees for optometrists and dispensing opticians in 2010-11

  • Following a discussion on the draft budget and business plan, members set the retention fee for 2010-11.
  • The annual retention fee for 2010-11 has increased for all registrants. In response to support from practitioners, optometrists and dispensing opticians will not pay the same flat fee in 2010-11. There was no commitment to maintaining a reduction in the fee for dispensing opticians beyond 2010-11. Further work on fees will be undertaken next year to determine the long term policy for our fee structure.
  • The annual retention fee for optometrists has increased from £219 to £325.
  • The annual retention fee for dispensing opticians has increased from £219 to £280.
  • The new fee structure was agreed by Council in November 2009 and applies to the next retention period, which runs from 1 April 2010 – 31 March 2011.
  • Council agreed an interim reduction in the fee for DOs in response to feedback from registrants and optical bodies. In July, the GOC launched a three-month consultation on the registration and retention fee structure. The consultation invited comment on a range of issues. In total, 85 responses were received.
  • Some of the arguments raised in consultation submissions in favour of a lower retention fee for dispensing opticians included:
    • The policy would recognise the differences between the professions, including the partial deregulation of dispensing and generally lower incomes of dispensing opticians than optometrists. Other comparable regulators responsible for regulating multiple professions apply differential fees.
    • Clinical risks associated with DOs are lower than for optometrists, and optometrists account for a proportionally higher number of FTP cases.
    • In the context of rising fees, some DOs may choose not to be registered, which would not be in the public interest.
  • The student registration fee and restoration fee remain unchanged. 

Codes of Conduct updated

  • Members approved the new Codes of Conduct for individual and business registrants.
  • Since 2005, the GOC has reviewed the Codes annually to ensure they remain fit for purpose. Areas for improvement were identified during these reviews and in 2008, Council consolidated this feedback into proposed changes to the Codes.
  • Key points from the new Codes are:
    • Clarifying the purpose of both Codes to set out what they are for, who they apply to, and the consequences of registrants not complying with them.
    • All student registrants must adhere to the principles set out in the Code.
    • All registrants must be covered by adequate and appropriate insurance for practice in the UK throughout the period of their registration.
    • All registrants have an obligation to report any concerns they have about themselves, or a colleague, or a business registrant, that they may not be fit to practise, fit to undertake training, or fit to carry on business.
    • To make it clearer that it is not merely inappropriate conduct in a person’s professional life which may put their registration at risk, but also their personal conduct whilst not practising.
    • Registrants need to be aware of and comply with guidance on the issue of patient consent.
    • Registrants must show respect for all people.
    • Both individual and business registrants must be aware of, and comply with, any national or local standards and guidance relating to clinical governance.
    • Both individual and business registrants must ensure that financial and commercial practices do not compromise patient safety.
  • Changes to the Codes have been made following consultation with registrants, optical bodies, patients and the public. Council also hosted a consultation seminar event on April. This was attended by optical bodies, registrants, students, patients, the public, eye health charities and fellow healthcare regulators.
  • Further details of the consultation can be found at www.optical.org
  • The new Codes come into effect 1 April 2010. All registrants will be expected to comply with the new Codes from this date.
  • The new Codes will be published online, and hard copies will be sent to all registrants early next year. 

Statement on whistle-blowing affirms support for registrants raising concerns

  • In April, the chief executives of the nine healthcare regulatory bodies, discussed the benefits of developing a cross-regulatory approach to whistle-blowing.
  • The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) was invited to prepare a draft cross-regulatory statement on whistle-blowing, which Council agreed to support and adopt.
  • The statement reaffirms the regulators’ support for health professionals who raise concerns about standards of care, in an appropriate, responsible and professional way as part of their wider duty to act quickly to protect all patients and the public from risk of harm.
  • The statement asserts that all health professionals have a responsibility to respond if they think that a colleague is acting unsafely or unprofessionally through their conduct or performance. Registrants are advised to keep written records about what is happening, and when. They are advised to express their concerns to the employer or relevant regulatory body; and exhaust all possible local procedures for expressing concerns. 

Education visit summary reports to be published

  • Members approved proposals to publish summary reports from GOC visits to each of the universities and colleges offering approved courses in optometry and dispensing optics.
  • Reports summarise key findings from the visit, and outline any recommendations for improvements.
  • The report will first be shared with the relevant university or college, before being approved by the GOC’s Education Committee.
  • The policy will increase transparency of the approvals process, and make information on training courses more accessible.
  • Reports will be made publicly available on the GOC website. 

GOC launches Welsh Language Scheme

  • The GOC today launched its approved Welsh Language Scheme, which has been ratified by the Welsh Language Board.
  • As a public body the GOC is required to prepare a Welsh Language Scheme. The scheme sets out the measures that the GOC will take to provide a high-quality service to Welsh-speaking stakeholders. Under the scheme, when providing services to the public in Wales, then GOC will treat the English and Welsh languages equally.
  • The GOC’s approach is designed to be pragmatic and proportionate, in line with its core principles and practical resources.
  • The Council’s Welsh language services include: bilingual public-interest areas of the website, such as advice on how to complain; and bilingual publications such as the Annual Report. 

Members receive performance review against 2009-10 business plan

  • At its April meeting, Council agreed that from September GOC staff would report quarterly on the progress of key projects in the annual business plan.
  • Progress reports at today’s meeting included:
    • Online retention: improvements to the existing paper-based retention process for 2010-11 are underway. From January, registrants should be able to track the progress of their application via the new registrants’ area of the GOC website.
    • Consultation on the content and accessibility of the GOC Registers: a series of facilitated consultation events were held around the UK in September and October. Discussions at the events have highlighted a number of potential improvements to the Registers and in relation to the GOC’s broader work. 

Update on GOC’s financial position

  • Members received an update on the Council’s financial position.
  • Income and expenditure are on track with the projected year end forecast outcome.
     

Next meeting: Thursday, 25 February 2010
 

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