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News from Council, 10 February 2016

11 Feb 2016

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Raising concerns with the GOC (whistleblowing) policy

Council agreed a new policy providing guidance for registrants and others in the optical sector on raising concerns about risks to patient safety, including where to go for advice and what protection is offered.

The policy has undergone a period of consultation with stakeholders and the GOC will publish the final version shortly (update 17 February: this is now available here).

It sets out the steps that registrants or others working in the sector should take if they believe that patient safety or care is being compromised by colleagues or the organisations in which they work or study. This might be, for example, because they are concerned about a colleague whose fitness to practise may be impaired, that record keeping or sight test processes are insufficient, fraud or false advertising, or that patient safety risks are being covered up and not addressed.

The policy is clear that the first step should usually be to raise the concern at a local level, such as with their employer. However if this is not a viable option, if raising the concern locally fails to bring a resolution, or the problem raises an imminent risk of serious harm, then it may be appropriate to bring it to the GOC to investigate.

The policy will help registrants to comply with the new GOC Standards, which place a duty on registrants to protect and safeguard patients, colleagues and others from harm.

Hearings and indicative sanctions guidance consultation

Council approved a consultation on the hearings and indicative sanctions guidance provided for fitness to practise (FTP) panel members. The consultation will go live tomorrow, Friday 12 February.

The guidance is used to explain the FTP process and help panels members decide what sanction to apply, if any, in an FTP hearing. The GOC wants to ensure that the guidance is a basis for fair and proportionate decisions. The changes are also designed to take account of legal and regulatory changes and the GOC’s new Standards of Practice.

Lisa Davis, GOC Director of Fitness to Practise, said: “We believe these proposed changes will improve consistency, lead to greater transparency and improve the quality of FTP panel decisions. It is important to get stakeholders’ feedback though before they take effect, so I’d strongly encourage all interested parties to respond to the consultation.”

When FTP panels consider which sanction to apply, they will always consider the least serious sanction (a warning) first. If that is insufficient to ensure public protection then they will consider the other available sanctions such as conditions, a fine or suspension.

Erasure from the register is the last sanction to be considered, and is applied only when the committee considers all other sanctions to be insufficient.

Budget and business plan

Council received the GOC’s draft budget and business plan for 2016/17. Council was keen to see a stronger emphasis on considering the future of education in the optical professions, particularly in light of technological change and increasing prevalence of GOC registrants undertaking enhanced optical services. However, this will require a reduction in other areas of the business plan to allow for the extra focus on education. The draft budget and business plan will now be revised before coming into effect on 1 April 2016.

Member fees

Council considered the fees for all its members including Council, committee members, education visitors, CET approvers and hearing panel members. This was considered on the basis of a thorough and transparent benchmarking exercise with comparable organisations and follows a similar exercise for staff which was completed last year.

The benchmarking research found that Council members’ fees were broadly in line with those of similar organisations and recommended a four per cent rise to £13,460 per year. However, the research found that the Chair’s current annual fee was significantly below the benchmarked median rate and so Council agreed an increase to ensure fairness in respect of the required time commitment and the seniority of the role. The Chair left the room and took no part in the discussion of his fee to avoid any conflict of interests.

Fees for most members will change on 1 April 2016, however the fees for Council Chair and members will not be agreed until the Charity Commission has given due consideration. Full details are available in the Council paper: https://www.optical.org/download.cfm?docid=6C099406-4A07-4CB2-8A7B021DEC08A92E

Other news

Council received a presentation from BMG Research, an independent agency who the GOC commissioned to research the views and habits of UK contact lens wearers. The GOC will publish the full report and its reaction to it in the coming weeks.

Council received an update on the end of the 2013-15 CET cycle. Over 98 per cent of registrants met their CET requirements in last cycle. Further details are available on the GOC website: https://www.optical.org/en/news_publications/news_item.cfm/98-per-cent-of-registrants-meet-cet-targets

Council considered the necessary skillset for a new lay member from Northern Ireland ahead of advertising for a vacancy in March. The new appointee is expected to start in October 2016 and will replace Brian Coulter, who steps down in September 2016.

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 at: https://www.optical.org/en/get-involved/Council_meetings_and_papers/index.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 28,000 optometrists, dispensing opticians, student opticians and optical businesses.

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