News from the General Optical Council meeting
The General Optical Council (GOC) held its third Council meeting of the year, which considered a review of the GOC’s Illegal Practice Strategy; the Annual report and financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2021; and the 2021 Equality and Diversity Data Monitoring Report looking at equality and diversity across GOC registrants, staff, members, and those going through fitness to practise proceedings.
Illegal Practice Strategy Review
Council considered the outputs of the GOC’s recent illegal practice review and approved a public consultation on a revised illegal practice strategy.
The purpose of the review was to help clarify and raise awareness of the GOC’s role in preventing illegal optical practice and to ensure that the revised strategy is based on current and emerging risks and improved working with other agencies and online platforms.
The review included an initial survey of targeted stakeholders, such as other regulators, professional bodies and NHS regions, discussion groups at the GOC Advisory Committee meeting, and a literature review to establish the risk to patient safety caused by illegal optical practice.
Following the review, the GOC is proposing the following key changes to be made to the strategy:
• include early assessment criteria to ensure only complaints concerning offences under the Act are accepted for further investigation;
• forge relationships with online platforms, for example Amazon, Google,
Facebook, and Instagram, to enable an early referral to their ‘takedown teams’;
• send cease and desist letters at the investigation stage;
• carry out test purchases after a cease and desist letter has been sent in illegal sales cases, if illegal sales are suspected to be continuing, and the evidential and public interest tests are met.
The 12-week public consultation on the revised illegal practice strategy will start in October.
Annual report and financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2021
Council approved the 2020-21 GOC annual report and financial statements.
The report covers the progress and development the GOC has made during the reporting period of 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. This includes:
• the publication of COVID-19 statements to support registrants;
• a Fitness to Practise (FtP) Improvement Programme leading to significant reductions in the number of open investigations;
• moving FtP hearings online due to COVID-19, and proceeding with the first hearing within 24 hours of the office closing due to COVID-19;
• adopting new education requirements to ensure GOC-approved qualifications equip learners with the skills, knowledge and experience needed to be safe practitioners;
• an increase in GOC staff engagement.
The Annual report also looks forward to the launch of a new lifelong learning scheme, Continuing Professional Development (CPD), for registrants; implementing new IT and Communication strategies; and continuing to adapt to emerging regulatory issues brought about by COVID-19, all occurring in 2021-22.
The GOC will publish the final Annual report on its website once approved by Parliament, which is expected to be in October 2021.
Equality and Diversity Data Monitoring Report 2021
Council noted the General Optical Council’s Equality and Diversity Data Monitoring Report 2021.
The Report provides diversity data about registrants (including students), those going through fitness to practise proceedings, staff and members. This data is collected to inform and underpin the GOC’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion approach which is embedded in all the GOC’s strategic goals.
Analysis from this year’s data shows:
• the GOC has an ethnically diverse registrant group, particularly among younger registrants;
• as in previous years, there are more female than male registrants;
• over half of registrants are aged between 25 and 44;
• the ethnic diversity of staff at the GOC is higher than the national demographics, where approximately 87% of people in the UK are White / White British compared to 53.94% at the GOC.
The Report will be published on the GOC’s website shortly.
The GOC’s next Council meeting will take place on Wednesday 8 December.