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Optical regulator welcomes Government reform proposal

21 Feb 2007

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General Optical Council press release, 21 February 2007

For immediate release

Optical regulator welcomes Government’s reform proposals

The General Optical Council (GOC) has welcomed the publication of the Government’s White Paper on professional regulation.

Commenting on the proposals, GOC chairman Rosie Varley said: “This White Paper signals an end to a long period of uncertainty for the regulation of healthcare professionals. For the first time since the conclusion of the Shipman Inquiry two years ago, we have a clear policy framework. We look forward to continuing to reform our role to improve public protection.

“We welcome the Government’s recognition of the crucial role regulators play in fostering and maintaining a system of safe, high quality healthcare in the UK. It is clear that regulators’ core functions will continue to involve setting and maintaining standards of education and conduct, registering qualified professionals and ensuring their continued fitness to practise.

“Many of the proposals in the White Paper are an endorsement the GOC reform agenda which has strengthened our role in public protection. We have already laid the groundwork for professional revalidation to be developed from the strength and success of our CET scheme. The steps we have taken to separate
investigation and hearings functions, and to introduce student registration also give us a head start.

“In our response to last year’s consultation, we stressed the importance of common standards and principles for healthcare professionals across the UK. We also argued for proportionality in regulation, to recognise differences in size, practice settings and risk among the different professions. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the departments of health of each of the four UK
countries, as well as the other regulators and the CHRE, to ensure that the principles set out in this Paper are developed and implemented effectively.”

Rosie Varley welcomed and endorsed the principles that are to underpin statutory professional regulation, as set out in the Paper:

  • Its overriding interest should be the safety and quality of the care that patients receive from health professionals.
  • Professional regulation needs to sustain the confidence of both the public and the professions threough demonstrable impartiality.
  • Professional regulation should be as much about sustaining, improving and assuring the professional standards of the overwhleming majority of health professionals as it is about identifying and addressing poor practice or bad behaviour.
  • Professional regulation should not create unnecessary burdens, but be proportionate to the risk it addresses and the benefit it brings.
  • The system must ensure the strength and integrity of health professionals across the United Kingdom, but be sufficiently flexible to reflect the differences in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Key proposals in Trust, Assurance and Safety, The Regulation of Health Professionals in the 21st Century include:

  • Councils will, as a minimum, have equal numbers of lay and professional members. Members will be independently appointed. Councils will become smaller, and more ‘board-like’.
  • All regulated professions will need to put in place arrangements for
    revalidation of their professional registration, by periodically demonstrating their continued fitness to practise. The Department of Health (DH) will discuss with the GOC and the optical professions the most appropriate arrangements.
  • Revalidation processes for self-employed contractors including
    optometrists will be carried out under the supervision of the NHS
    commissioning organisation or the regulator. Employees of approved bodies (eg NHS organisations) will be subject to employer arrangements for revalidation. Regulators will develop direct revalidation arrangements for other groups.
  • Fitness to Practise (FTP) panels will use the civil standard of proof, with a ‘sliding scale’, rather than the criminal standard.
  • The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE) will have
    enhanced powers to scrutinise the regulators’ handling of FTP cases. CHRE will develop common protocols for local investigations.
  • The DH will develop a strategy to support and rehabilitate healthcare professionals experiencing health problems including substance misuse.
  • An independent adjudication body will be created for doctors. The body will recruit and train hearings panel members to sit on independent adjudication panels for other regulatory bodies. Other regulators may eventually choose to use the independent adjudication body for hearings.
  • The non-medical regulatory bodies should continue to be responsible for the educational standards of the professions they regulate.
  • Regulators will work with NHS employers to develop arrangements for language testing as part of selection, where appropriate.
  • The CHRE will develop a single definition of ‘good character’ as a
    consistent basis for professional registration.
  • Regulators will consider the regulation of students and present proposals by January 2008. 
  • The Government will establish a national advisory group on professional regulation to advise on the detailed implementation of the White Paper and the response to the Shipman Inquiry and related inquiries.

ENDS

For further information please contact:
Kate Fielding
Communications Manager
General Optical Council
t: 020 7307 3472
m: 07763 210019
e: kfielding@optical.org

Notes to editors:
1. Trust, Assurance and Safety - The Regulation of Health Professionals in the 21st Century is available from the Department of Health website:
http://www.dh.gov.uk/PolicyAndGuidance/HumanResourcesAndTraining/ModernisingProfessionalRegulation/ProfessionalRegulationArticle/fs/en?CONTENT_ID=4143144&chk=p8XvWG
2. The Government has also published two further documents today: Safeguarding patients: The Government’s response to the recommendations of the Shipman Inquiry’s fifth report and to the recommendations of the Ayling, Neale and Kerr/Haslam Inquiries and Learning from tragedy keeping patients safe: Overview of the Government's action programme in response to the
recommendations of the Shipman Inquiry.
3. Two reviews of healthcare professional regulation, The regulation of the nonmedical healthcare professions and Good doctors, safer patients were published in July 2006. Following the publication of these reports, the Department ran a public consultation from 14 July 2006 until 10 November 2006. The full text of the GOC response to the consultation is available from the Council’s website, at:
http://www.optical.org/documents/061102GOCresponsetoconsultationonregulatio nofhealthprofessionals.pdf

About the General Optical Council:
The GOC is the regulator for the optical professions in the UK. Its purpose is to protect the public by promoting high standards of education and conduct amongst opticians. The Council currently registers around 22,000 optometrists, dispensing opticians, student opticians and optical businesses.

 

 

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