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News from Council - 11 February 2015

16 Feb 2015

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Council approves draft standards of practice

Council agreed to consult on the GOC's new standards of practice for optometrists and dispensing opticians from March to May 2015.

All registrants will have the chance to comment on the draft standards through an online survey and the GOC will also discuss the standards with groups of registrants and groups of members of the public. The final version of the new standards will replace the GOC's current code of conduct for individual registrants.

The draft standards reflect developments in regulation and optics since the GOC last reviewed its codes of conduct in 2009. This includes taking into account the findings of the Francis Inquiry and developments in optical practice, with more practitioners now delivering enhanced services in the community.

The standards will also make clearer the GOC’s expectations, while still giving registrants room to use their professional judgement in deciding how to apply the standards in any given situation. The standards are also designed to be flexible enough to deal with developments in practice, including across the four nations of the UK.

The GOC may also provide supplementary material to, for example, address issues that are relevant to all healthcare professionals, such as consent, duty of candour and maintaining sexual boundaries. Other organisations will continue to produce guidance that registrants may call upon to help them exercise their professional judgement. In particular, professional bodies, including the College of Optometrists and the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, produce detailed guidance that draws on their clinical expertise.

The GOC will also be consulting on new standards for students. These will be consistent with the standards for fully-qualified registrants, but will reflect the fact that students develop their skills and knowledge during the course of their training and work with patients under supervision.

GOC Director of Strategy Alistair Bridge, said: "The new standards of practice are designed to be clearer and easier to apply and therefore to promote higher standards across the optical professions. We will be carrying out an extensive consultation to make sure that the new standards reflect the views of both registrants and the public.”

The draft standards for qualified registrants and students have been informed by the responses to the GOC's call for evidence last year (https://www.optical.org/en/news_publications/news_item.cfm/goc-publishes-findings-from-its-standards-review-call-for-evidence).

2015/16 business plan and budget

Council also approved the GOC's business plan and budget for 2015/16.

The business plan will address the priorities in the GOC's strategic plan including:

  • promoting higher standards across the optical professions, particularly through the GOC's ongoing strategic standards review;
  • promoting increased trust and awareness of optometrists and dispensing opticians' roles, especially though its strategy to tackle illegal practice;
  • improving complaints handling, to speed up the fitness to practise process in the interests of patients and registrants alike.

Other priorities include improving the GOC's IT infrastructure to improve customer service, an increased focus on research and moving to new, more modern premises. The business plan also reaffirms the GOC's commitment to ongoing engagement around the Law Commissions' Bill on the future of healthcare regulation.

Other news

Council received an update on the GOC's illegal practice strategy, after the GOC's stakeholder steering group met for the first time last week (https://www.optical.org/en/news_publications/news_item.cfm/goc-holds-first-illegal-practice-stakeholder-group-meeting). Council also considered member fees, external auditors and its reserves policy.

Chair Gareth Hadley welcomed new members Glenn Tomison and Rosie Glazebrook to their first Council meeting. He also announced that Brian Coulter has been reappointed as Senior Council Member for two more years, from 1 April 2015. Lisa Gerson will be interim Chair of the Investigation Committee until the appointment of a permanent Chair. The previous incumbent, James Kellock, has stood down to join the GOC's Hearings Panel.

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/february-2015.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 26,500 optometrists, dispensing opticians, student opticians and optical businesses.

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