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News from Council 11 November 2015

12 Nov 2015

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GOC Council meets in Farringdon

Council met at the GOC’s new offices in Farringdon for the first time.

All future Council meetings will be held at the new offices, as will other meetings that the regulator had to previously hold off-site. Fitness to practise hearings have been in Farringdon since October.

Samantha Peters, GOC Chief Executive and Registrar, announced that the GOC hopes staff will move to the office on Tuesday 1 December – although with the caveat that this remains subject to the successful testing of IT equipment next week.

Samantha Peters said, “Today is an important landmark for the GOC, and so will 1 December be when, subject to IT testing, our staff move in and Farringdon becomes our new home. The more modern working environment, improved accessibility, better IT infrastructure and greater meeting room capacity will all be of great benefit to our ability to work effectively in protecting the public.”

Council approves £10 increase in GOC fees

Council has agreed a £10 increase in the GOC registration fee, making the fee for optometrists, dispensing opticians and bodies corporate £320.
Student registration fees have been frozen at £25 and the £100 discount for practitioners on low incomes remains in place.

Gareth Hadley, GOC Chair, said, “The 3.2% increase will ensure we have sufficient resources to carry out our regulatory functions, while limiting the strain that fees place on registrants.

“Inflation is naturally part of the reason for the increase, but it is also born out of a commitment to longer-term planning to ensure ongoing financial stability.

"The £10 increase builds in a contingency for eventualities such as a further increase in complaint numbers or particularly complex cases. It will also allow us to continue the implementation of our new Standards of Practice and consult thoroughly on new business standards. We must also bear the costs of more visits to education institutions and a levy to the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) of around £3.50 per registrant."

CET update

Council received an update on the end of the current CET cycle and arrangements for removing registrants who do not meet their CET requirements from the registers. Unlike previous CET cycles, there will be no three month ‘shortfall’ period so all registrants must ensure that they meet their CET requirements by 31 December 2015 to avoid being removed from the register and being unable to practise.

Latest figures show that around 5,500 registrants still need to meet their CET requirements so they need to take immediate action in order to remain on the register in 2016.

The GOC also announced some changes for the 2016-18 CET cycle. A new CET competency called ‘Standards of Practice’ will replace the current ‘Professional Conduct’ competency, ensuring that all registrants have to do one piece of CET relevant to the GOC’s new standards.

The GOC is also introducing some changes to the MyCET online system linked to the requirement to do CET on the new standards of practice. When registrants first log in in 2016 they will have to declare that they have read and understood the new Standards of Practice.

Registrants will also need to complete a reflective statement whenever they accept CET points in MyCET, to enable them to better reflect on their practice and how they will apply their learning. This step had only previously been necessary for peer review or peer discussion CET.

Discussion of voluntary code of practice for online contact lens sellers

Council discussed the GOC’s consultation on a voluntary Code of Practice for online contact lens sellers.

The GOC will further consider some of the issues raised and discuss them with stakeholders, so now plans to present the Code for final consideration in February. The GOC consulted on the draft Code from August to October.

Whistleblowing policy consultation

Council approved a draft whistleblowing policy which the GOC launched a consultation on today. The policy sets out how the GOC will handle disclosures from workers in the optical sector which may raise public interest concerns. The policy covers the protection that the GOC will afford to whistleblowers.

The consultation will run from 12 November 2015 to 21 January 2016, with the final policy set for publication in March 2016. The GOC is encouraging a wide range of stakeholders to give their feedback during the consultation period. The consultation is available from https://www.optical.org/en/get-involved/consultations/index.cfm

Standards

Council received an update on the implementation of the GOC’s new standards, which it published on 29 October 2015. All registrants will receive paper copies with their retention packs, and must declare that they have read and will abide by the standards when they complete their annual retention in the New Year. The new standards come into effect from 1 April 2016 and are available at https://www.optical.org/en/Standards/index.cfm

Other news

Council also approved a new Gifts and Hospitality Policy, considered the next year’s business plan and received the 2015 Optical Sector Report, outlining changes and developments in the professions over the last 12 months.

Gareth Hadley paid tribute to outgoing Council member Rob Hogan. The meeting was Rob’s last before his term ends on 31 December 2015. Gareth Hadley said, “Rob has had a long and distinguished career in optics and we are grateful for his contributions over the years. In particular he has done sterling work over the last year as Council champion for our project to tackle illegal practice, drawing together and leading our stakeholder steering group. We are immensely grateful for his work on this and everything else in his eight years at the GOC."

David Parkins (the current President of the College of Optometrists) will replace Rob on the Council on 15 March 2016 – for full details see https://www.optical.org/en/news_publications/news_item.cfm/david-parkins-appointed-to-goc-council

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/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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