18 February 2019
Source: General Optical Council
Council approved publication of the new Standards for Optical Businesses, following the amendment to the standards to address feedback received from stakeholders during the consultation. The new Standards for Optical Businesses make clearer GOC expectations of business registrants and are necessary to reflect changes in optical practice, recommendations from recent health enquiries, emerging technologies and the increased prevalence of multidisciplinary working.
Council reflected on the work GOC has done to address points raised by patients, practitioners and businesses during the consultation including requests to make the language in the standards more specific and questions in relation to whether the standards applied to online businesses. GOC has addressed these concerns by rewording some standards to ensure that they can be achieved in a variety of business settings and where possible standards have been made more specific, although in some areas flexibility is required to allow businesses to use their judgement when applying the standards to their particular circumstances.
The consultation received responses from a wide range of stakeholders. Of the 351 unique responses received to the survey, 87 per cent were from registrants and the public, while the remaining 13 per cent were from organisations, including registered optical businesses, non-registered optical businesses and optical representative bodies and associations. Independent research agency, Pye Tait Consulting, conducted the analysis of the responses and carried out interviews and focus groups with patients, registrants and optical businesses.
Analysis of the consultation findings show high approval levels from respondents. Key results from the survey undertaken as part of the consultation included 70 per cent of respondents agreeing that the standards can be applied by and to different types of optical businesses and a further 81 per cent of respondents agreeing that the GOC’s expectations of optical businesses are clear. Many respondents also reported that the draft proposals reflect ‘what businesses do anyway.’
Feedback from patients also highlighted the importance of business standards, with 84 per cent of patients interviewed saying they would rather ‘use an optical business that meets a certain set of standards, than one that does not’.
The GOC will be undertaking a range of activities to promote the benefits of business registration and will also be pursuing legislative reform to ensure that all businesses carrying out restricted functions are required to register with the GOC. The GOC want to create a more level playing field for all optical businesses and give both patients and practitioners assurance that all businesses are regulated. Currently only limited companies operating as optical businesses which use protected titles such as optometrist or optician, must register with the GOC.
The new Standards for Optical Businesses will be published in April 2019. The new standards will then come into force in October 2019.
The Budget and Business Plan
Council approved the budget and business plan for 2019/20. The GOC will focus on five key projects:
Education Strategic Review
Council await the findings of the consultation into draft Standards for education providers and draft learning outcomes for students. The GOC is encouraging all stakeholders to respond to the consultation before it closes on the 25 February 2019. The consultation is hosted on the GOC’s consultation hub https://consultation.optical.org.
The GOC has commissioned research to help identify what risks the optical professions pose to patients and the public, now and in the near future. The findings of this research will inform the development of the new CET scheme. The new CET scheme will come into force in the 2022 – 24 cycle.
Council discussed ways in which the GOC could further support the rollout of the newly approved Standards for Optical Businesses. Council agreed to the implementation and communications plan to help businesses understand how to apply the standards in practice.
Council discussed the importance of legislative reform to allow the GOC to operate efficiently and effectively. The GOC hope that changes to legislation to allow the GOC to appoint more hearings panel members to the Hearings Committee will happen in 2019. An increase in the number of members of the Hearing panel will enable the GOC to hold more fitness to practise hearings simultaneously and therefore speed up the process of dealing with complaints in the interests of patients and registrants alike. Currently the GOC are constrained by the availability of a limited number of hearings panel members.
Council noted the progress that has been made so far, such as the introduction of the new fitness to practise Acceptance Criteria. The updated criteria has enhanced the GOC’s ability to focus resources on cases that raise fitness to practise concerns, thereby improving the GOC’s ability to fulfil its public protection role.
The GOC has also implemented a cross organisation review to develop both large and small-scale efficiency improvements. Successful initiatives already introduced include a greater reliance on in-house corporate legal advice rather than external lawyers. Plans to introduce additional operational efficiencies will be presented to Council later in the year.
Equality, diversity and inclusion monitoring
Council discussed the GOC’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) monitoring report 2017/18. The EDI monitoring report is based on data collected from registrants. All data is anonymised to ensure that individuals cannot be identified within the report.
Information from the EDI monitoring report helps the GOC to understand more about the optical professions and avoid any unintended barriers for registrants or the public.
The report found that 62 per cent of optometrists and dispensing opticians are women, a record high for the professions. There has been a year on year increase in the percentage of female registrants.
As part of the 2019 GOC registration process, registrants will be asked to verify their EDI information or provide it for the first time if they have not done so previously. Providing EDI remains voluntary for registrants, but Council were keen to stress its importance for helping the GOC to understand the make-up of the professions and tackle any possible barriers to fairness.