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News from 12 November Council

13 Nov 2014

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Standards review: call for evidence

Council approved the publication of the GOC’s statement following the call for evidence published to launch its strategic standards review. The GOC’s statement summarises all feedback received during the consultation period which ran from July 2014 until October 2014.

Council heard that the overall feedback from the consultation was positive about the objectives of the review, with broad support for the project. Many responses noted how scopes of practice would change in the future, adapting to changes in technology, an ageing population and increasing pressure on the NHS.

Council heard how the GOC has also made particular efforts to engage with stakeholders in the devolved nations of the UK. Understanding the diverging scopes of practice in the four nations is crucial to the success of the project.

The GOC will use the responses to form the basis of the development of its new standards of ethics and performance. These will be presented to Council in February 2015 for agreement for consultation. There will then be a further consultation looking ahead at how standards of competence, education and training and the system of regulation more generally will need to change.

The GOC launched the call for evidence in July as part of its evidence based approach of our strategic standards review. Stakeholders were invited to comment on the objectives of the review, anticipated changes to scopes of practice for the optical professions, the issues they should address in the new standards and any changes to regulation they felt were required more generally. The GOC welcomed stakeholders’ willingness to engage so constructively with the review to ensure regulation enables developments in optical practice that would be in the interests of patients and the wider public.


Retention fees

Council set the GOC registration fee for 2015/16 at £310. This is an increase of £20 for optometrists, dispensing opticians and bodies corporate. The low income fee, for registrants earning under £12,000, will be £210 (maintaining the £100 discount) and the fee for students will be frozen at £25.

Gareth Hadley, GOC Chair, said: “We’re always mindful of the strain on registrants of paying registration fees. I’d like to assure all of our registrants that we remain as determined as ever to work efficiently and minimise the burden of the fee. But we must always ensure we have the resources we need to carry out our job of protecting the public.

“This year’s increase is partly down to inflation but it also reflects the work we are doing to protect the public and be fair to registrants. In common with most of the other healthcare professional regulators we have again seen a significant increase in the number of FTP complaints we receive. It is absolutely imperative that this increase does not stand in the way of our continued efforts to speed up the FTP process, in the interests of patients and registrants alike.

“In the first six months of this financial year the median ‘end-to-end’ time to deal with FTP complaints was down to 83 weeks, from 99 in 2012/13. We’re improving but we know we still have much further to go to meet the expectations of the public, registrants and Government to drive this figure down further.

“We will also be increasing our investment in research, to ensure we have the best possible understanding of the landscape we regulate. In particular, we will be conducting more research into the views of registrants and of patients. We are also investing in our IT infrastructure and hope to move to a new, more modern office.

“We hope too that whoever forms the next Government after the General Election passes the Law Commissions’ draft Bill on the future of healthcare regulation. As well as speeding the FTP process up some of the legislative change in the draft Bill will help us to make significant cost savings - particularly the possibility of introducing threshold criteria to close minor cases early, preventing them from delaying more serious matters.

“We will continue to work with other regulators to push for the Bill, which may help us to achieve savings in the future. In the present though, we need to ensure we are sufficiently resourced for next year, which is why we have set the registration fee at £310.”


OCCS presentation

Council heard a presentation from the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS). The presentation reviewed the performance in the service’s first six months under its new provider, Nockolds Solicitors. They received 285 enquiries since 1 April 2014 with a further 17 passed on to them from the previous service provider.

Council heard that the OCCS has concluded 94% of the 285 referrals within a 45 day period. They revealed statistics showing consumer satisfaction with both the outcomes of complaints and the complaints process. They also outlined their objectives for the next quarter to Council. Council welcomed the breadth and quality of information being gathered by the OCCS and the efforts being made to engage constructively with stakeholders, including professional bodies, optical businesses and consumer groups.

The OCCS mediates all consumer complaints raised by members of the public, patients and optical professionals or practices regulated by the GOC. Nockolds Solicitors deliver the service for the GOC under a three year contract, which started on 1 April 2014.

 

Other news

Council also received a report on the optical sector. Council members particularly highlighted enhanced services that registrants are increasingly delivering across the UK. Council also agreed to take a more proactive approach to informing the media about fitness to practise decisions. Finally, Gareth Hadley paid tribute to members James Russell and Morag Alexander in their final Council meeting before their terms as members end on 31 December 2014.

 

ENDS

 

For media enquiries please contact:
Simon Grier
Communications Manager
General Optical Council
t: 020 7307 3478
e: sgrier@optical.org

 

Notes to editors

1. Council papers are available to access at: https://www.optical.org/en/get-involved/Council_meetings_and_papers/council-papers-for-november-2014.cfm

 

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, performance and conduct amongst opticians. The Council currently registers around 26,000 optometrists, dispensing opticians, student opticians and optical businesses.

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