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News from 25 February Council

26 Feb 2010

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GOC sets strategy for 2010-15

  • At its February meeting, Council approved the GOC’s strategic plan for 2010-15, which outlines the following three work priorities:
    • Continue to modernise our core functions and put in place systems for improvement to become more efficient and more effective
    • Develop the regulatory framework to support UK eyecare in delivering safe, high quality care which meets society’s needs and expectations; and
    • Promote a wider understanding of our role and engage stakeholders in our work.
  • The five-year plan has been formulated following a period of stakeholder consultation that began in April 2009. In November 2009, members approved a draft strategic plan which has been slightly revised to reflect stakeholder responses to the second phase of consultation.
  • During this second phase of engagement, a range of registrants and optical partners offered their feedback on the Council’s work priorities, including ABDO, the AOP, ACLM, BCLA, College of Optometrists, FODO, and Optometry Scotland.

Members approve business priorities and 2010-11 budget
Council approved the draft business plan and budget for the 2010-11 financial year. Key projects include:

  • Piloting of revalidation scheme, and investigate how revalidation can work alongside CET
    As part of this ongoing project, the GOC is hosting a CET stakeholder event on 25 March to listen to registrants’ views and experiences of the scheme. Registrants are also encouraged to get involved in reviewing the existing scheme by completing the online CET survey available at:  
  • Develop and implement an electronic FTP case management system This will help to reduce the time taken to investigate complaints.
  • Pilot online retention Developing a full online retention system will help to create a more efficient and user-friendly renewal process for registrants. It will also result in longer-term cost savings by cutting the costs associated with the existing paper-based system.

Budget 2010-11

  • The budget was discussed at the November Council meeting prior to setting the 2010-11 registration fees
  • 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.

Performance review against 2009-10 business plan
At each Council meeting, members receive a quarterly report on the delivery of key projects outlined in the annual 2009-10 business plan. Progress reports at today’s meeting included:
Developing revalidation
Research projects on risk and employer appraisal are now complete. Stakeholder events funded by the Department of Health have been hosted across the UK to listen to stakeholder views on how these two elements may form part of the scheme. The events were well attended, and feedback will be used to help develop more detailed proposals which will be subject to further consultation later this year.
Developing new Codes of Conduct
In early February all registrants received a copy of the new Codes of Conduct. Promotion of the new Codes is ongoing, and has included an event aimed at patients and registrants, ‘What to expect from your optician’.
Raising public awareness
The GOC will be rolling out a ‘registration toolkit’ in the Spring, containing practical guidance to help registrants make the most of their GOC registration. Individual registrants and businesses have been involved in designing the toolkit to ensure it is flexible and offers cost-effective solutions that will work in real practice settings.

A GOC-registered logo will be available for individual and business registrants to download from the Registrants area of, and use on any promotional materials. An information booklet aimed at registrants, ‘Making the most of your GOC registration’ highlights the benefits of promoting GOC registration, and offers practical advice on how to do this in the workplace. Advice includes making a GOC registration certificate visible within the practice, including your GOC number on your name badge, and displaying a GOC-registered logo on practice stationery, websites etc.

Registrants are also encouraged to stock copies of a patient leaflet, ‘Check your optician is registered’. This contains information for patients on how to check that an optometrist, dispensing optician or optical business is GOC registered. It includes advice on how to check the online registers, and what the GOC-registered logo means.

The leaflet also explains the role of the GOC, and explains what complaints we can and can’t deal with. It is anticipated that this will be available from sources such as: opticians’ own practices; NHS PCTs; NHS Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS); Local Involvement Networks (LINks); patient information services and support organisations (such as the Thomas Pocklington Trust, Witness); and health charities (including Patient Concern, Help the Aged).

Summary of GOC’s financial position

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

GOC tender to appoint new legal firm

  • The GOC’s contract with its current provider of external legal advice (in respect of legal and Fitness to Practise issues), is due to expire on 31 March 2010.
  • Members received an update on the tender process to appoint a new legal firm(s).
  • The tender details were published in the Law Society Gazette and on the GOC’s website on 21 January 2010:
  • Potential suppliers were invited to complete a Pre Qualification questionnaire, which will be used to shortlist potential suppliers.
  • Council will decide upon the firm/firms to be appointed in mid-March, following recommendations made by the panel appointed to evaluate the tenders.

GOC outlines proposals for two GOC Stakeholder Reference Groups (SRGs)

  • Council approved proposals for establishing two reference groups: one made up of optical professionals, the other patients and the public. Council agreed to establish two SRGs at its April 2009 meeting, and the proposals are in line with the GOC’s Stakeholder Engagement Strategy.
  • The proposals draw on the experience of other regulators with similar stakeholder groups, and best practice governance approaches. 
  • The groups will be another mechanism through which the GOC will continue to engage with its stakeholders.
  • The membership and remit of SRGs differs significantly from that of GOC committees, whose role is to provide expert advice. The majority of work will take place electronically, through ‘e-engagement’ exercises. This will mean the SRGs provide a cost-effective, flexible way of gaining registrant and patient input.
  • SRGs will be asked to provide input into various GOC policies and projects. This may mean reviewing a patient information leaflet or changes to the website, discussing a particular policy such as revalidation, or reviewing the suitability of consultation questions.
  • It is proposed that we recruit a pool of twelve members for each of the groups. The whole group will meet annually for a full-day networking/ facilitated discussion. Other meetings will be smaller, more ‘focus-group’ like and will be held according to the business need, rather than at set intervals.
  • The SRGs will initially run as one year pilots. This offers the flexibility to review arrangements and membership after a year.
  • It is anticipated that the groups will be established by September 2010, and that the open day event for SRG members will take place before September Council.
  • Adverts for volunteers to the optical groups will be distributed through existing communications channels, eg through the optical journals, optical bodies, and on the GOC website. Patient/ public volunteers will be recruited in a variety of ways including: through the volunteer pages of the Guardian; Job Centre Plus networks; and local LINks coordinators etc

Members receive Equality and Diversity Scheme update

  • The Council’s 2009 Equality and Diversity Action Plan was successfully concluded at the end of December 2009.
  • An updated E&D Scheme has been developed to allow the GOC to build on the successes of 2009, and to demonstrate further commitment to the promotion and progression of equality and diversity as a regulator.
  • Members also noted the registration department’s Equality and Diversity Monitoring Report. Since last year, the GOC has been collecting and monitoring equality and diversity data on individual GOC registrants. This is in accordance with the E&D Action Plan.
  • Monitoring forms were included in the 2009-10 retention packs that were sent out to all fully-registered optometrists, dispensing opticians and all student registrants. The information requested in the forms covered gender, age, ethnic origin and any disabilities. We received a completed form from 68 per cent of all full registrants and 26 per cent of all student registrants.
  • Analysis was also conducted of equality and diversity data for registrants that were the subject of a fitness to practise complaint in 2009. This involves a much smaller sample of registrants.
  • Some headline results from both sets of data include:
    • The largest category of ethnic origin among full registrants was White, comprising 72% of fully-qualified optometrists and 86% of dispensing opticians. However, the majority of student optometrists were of Asian ethnicity (59%), along with a large proportion of student dispensing opticians (29%). There were relatively few responses received from other categories of ethnic origin.
    • The majority of fitness to practise complaints in 2009 involved male registrants (64 per cent of complaints involving optometrists and 63 per cent of those involving dispensing opticians). This was despite the overall majority of practitioners in both fields being female.

Other items:

Committee appointments

  • To date, committee members have been appointed to Registration and Investigation committees. Members of the Registration Committee will advise Council on a variety of issues relating to registration. Investigation Committee members consider evidence about Fitness to Practise complaints, and decide what course of action to take.
  • A full list of the new Registration and Investigation Committee members is available from:
  • The recruitment process for the Council’s other statutory committees is now complete, following interviews between January and February this year. It is anticipated that the selection panel’s recommendations will be considered for approval by Council in a confidential session, also on 25 February 2010. Once approval is received, then candidates will be duly notified if they have been successful or not.

Next meeting: Thursday, 17 June 2010, Birmingham Hilton Metropole Hotel, NEC

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