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News from Council

20 Nov 2008

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Members bid farewell to Council chairman
Council met on 20 November 2008 at the Durrants Hotel, London. The meeting was Rosie Varley’s last as chairman, having served in the role for ten years. During a brief farewell address Rosie welcomed recent moves toward collaborative working within optics, citing joint working between the Association of Optometrists (AOP) and the Federation of Ophthalmic Dispensing Opticians (FODO); and the RNIB and Action for Blind People. Rosie continues as a Council member until 31 March 2009, after which the newly-constituted Council will take up office. The new chair of Council takes up office from 1 January 2009.

GOC praised by CHRE as an “efficient and effective” regulator
At their November meeting, GOC members endorsed a proposed action plan in response to the CHRE’s annual performance review of the Council’s work. In the report, which was published in August 2008, the GOC won praise as an “efficient and effective regulator” with a clear focus on enhancing public protection. Areas of strength included the Council’s internal governance processes, particularly its Code of Conduct for Council and hearings panel members; and its appraisal systems for Council and hearings panel members. The CHRE’s report also outlines areas where improvements are recommended.

Members consider draft budget and business plan for 2009-10
The 2009-10 retention fee will rise from £169 to £219. This is the first time in four years that the cost of full GOC registration has gone up. In reaching their decision the Council considered the draft budget and outline business plan for 2009-10. Both items were presented for information only, and will be revised for Council’s approval at the March 2009 meeting. The business plan outlines the following priorities for next year:

  • Ensure that effective organisational structures and strategic planning mechanisms are in place to enable the new Council to operate effectively
  • Implement the stakeholder engagement strategy
  • Prepare for the introduction of a revalidation scheme
  • Prepare for the establishment of the Office of Health Professions Adjudicator (OHPA)
  • Address CHRE performance review recommendations
  • Implement efficiency measures and review policies and procedures to ensure effective controls and performance management.

Late payment and student restoration fees agreed
Two key changes were today agreed to the existing Registration Rules. The retention fee for full registrants has increased from £169 to £219. The GOC is also now applying late charges to registrants, both full and student, who miss the retention deadlines. Full registrants who fail to return their retention application, payment or both by the 15 March deadline have to pay a £20 administration charge on top of the basic retention fee. If they miss the 31 March deadline they will have to pay £70 in addition to the basic registration fee to restore to the register.
Students who fail to return their retention application, payment or both by 15 July 2009, will have to pay a £10 administration charge on top of the basic retention fee. If they miss the 31 August deadline they will have to pay £40 to restore to the register.
Administration charges have been introduced to cover the cost of processing late applications. These costs have until now been absorbed by the GOC. Council stressed that the majority of registrants, who manage to get their applications in on time, should not have to pay for the minority who miss the deadline.

GOC takes first steps towards revalidation
Members today approved a set of initial proposals on the GOC’s approach to revalidation. The proposals form a draft framework to the scheme, and have been compiled by the Standards Committee in collaboration with other optical bodies. Full details of the revalidation scheme for optometrists and dispensing opticians are still to be decided. The GOC will be encouraging registrants, optical bodies, patient groups, and members of the public to contribute their comments throughout next year as the plans take shape.
Council’s draft proposals incorporate the key principles for revalidation as identified by the Department of Health, and will be presented to the Department of Health’s National Working Group in January 2009. Key points include:

  • The revalidation process takes place over two full three-year CET cycles; so one sixth of all eligible practitioners are revalidated each year
  • Revalidation will apply to optometrists and dispensing opticians who are active in clinical practice. Registrants who are not practising will not need to be revalidated (for example: academics and managers in optical practice who, in the interest of public safety, should still be within the GOC’s jurisdiction).
  • Registrants who are successfully revalidated will have a ‘license to practise’. Those who are registered but not practising (and therefore not subject to revalidation) will not be issued with a licence. This mirrors the approach adopted by the General Medical Council (GMC).
  • Registrants will be ‘risk profiled’, whereby the nature of assessment is proportionate to the level of risk to the public.
  • Existing schemes such as Continuing Education and Training (CET) could be used as evidence toward revalidation.

Council will begin work on a detailed implementation plan for revalidation early in 2009, and it is anticipated that revalidation itself will begin from 2012.

Committee constitution: the future Council takes shape
Rules outlining the constitution of GOC committees were approved today. The Rules detail the size, membership and quorum of the Council’s statutory committees from 1 April 2009. The Council carried out a three-month consultation on the Rules, which closed on 7 November 2008.

Council proposes draft Welsh Language Scheme
The GOC will carry out a three-month public consultation on its draft Welsh Language Scheme. As a public body the GOC is required to prepare a Scheme under the Welsh Language Act. It is expected that Council will approve and begin to implement the final scheme in Spring 2009.
The GOC’s approach is designed to be pragmatic and proportionate, in line with its core principles and practical resources. Under the draft proposals, the GOC’s Welsh language services will include bilingual areas of the website and some bilingual publications, as well as systems to deal with enquiries and correspondence in Welsh.

Codes of conduct: get ready to have your say
Council today approved a consultation outlining possible changes to the GOC codes of conduct for individual and business registrants. The consultation will be issued to optical representative and professional bodies; patient and consumer groups; universities and training establishments; and other regulatory bodies.
The GOC is encouraging all registrants to get involved and have their say in a series of roadshows, scheduled to take place across the country early in the new year. Proposed changes include:

  • Clarifying that the code applies to student as well as full registrants;
  • Highlighting registrants’ responsibility to raise concerns about a colleague’s fitness to practise; and
  • Emphasising registrants’ responsibility to behave appropriately in their personal life, in a way that does not undermine public confidence in the profession.

New FTP guidance on warnings and performance assessment
The GOC has published its official guidance on Fitness to Practise (FTP) warnings. The guidance has been produced for registrants and Investigation Committee (IC) members, and clearly outlines the circumstances in which warnings can be considered and issued. The IC can issue warnings to registrants as a way of recording an isolated concern that would not in itself warrant a full FTP hearing. If further issues subsequently come to light, a recorded warning can help the IC to identify patterns of behaviour that may be cause for concern. The guidance was approved by members at November Council and will be used with immediate effect.

Members also approved guidance for anyone involved in performance assessments. Performance assessments take place when the IC needs more information about the standard of a registrant’s work before deciding what action, if any, to take regarding a complaint. Three sets of guidance are available: to give registrants undergoing assessment a better understanding of the process and the purpose of the assessment; to outline what is expected of optical professionals carrying out the assessments; and to give advice to performance assessors and other experts who are instructed on FTP cases.

Download the Council papers for this meeting.

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