Launching the GOC’s 2023/24 Business Plan

Chief Executive and Registrar, Leonie Milliner, sets out the GOC’s plans for the coming year

I’m delighted in this, my inaugural blog, to launch the GOC’s Business Plan for 2023/24. The plan, which marks the fourth year of our 'Fit for the Future' strategy, sets out the key work programmes we aim to deliver to achieve our vision of being recognised for delivering world-class regulation and excellent customer service.

Protecting the public

Protecting patients and upholding public confidence in the professions and businesses we regulate is of vital importance. The public must have confidence in our ability to protect them, and our registrants must consider that we are fair, proportionate, and focused on public protection.

We will do this by maintaining our register of individuals and businesses who are fit to practise, as well as continuing to embed improvements in our triage and casework processes to speed up investigations and improve the number of fitness to practise (FTP) hearings that conclude first time.

We will also aim to deliver a new electronic case management system to better support the robust management of our end-to-end casework process, and in order to embed good practice and share findings from FTP outcomes with registrants, we will relaunch our FTP Focus bulletin as an e-newsletter.

Supporting registrants to uphold high standards

We want to ensure eye-care professionals can contribute to their full professional capability in the best interests of patients, and this year important reforms to both the education and training of future optometrists and dispensing opticians and to post-registration qualifications in independent prescribing and for contact lens opticians will begin to take effect. In September 2023 we will see the first cohort of future optometrists and dispensing opticians begin their new integrated programmes, while approved qualifications in prescribing and for contact lens opticians will begin to adapt to meet the new education and training requirements. We will continue to fund SPOKE, a vital cross-sector collaboration hosted by the College of Optometrists designed to help employers, commissioners, providers of GOC-approved qualifications and the academic and practice community come together and share insight, develop resources, and support a cohesive approach to much-needed change.

Our new, more flexible Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme now gives registrants more control over their learning and development and the ability to tailor their own personal scope of practice. As we prepare for the third and final year of this current three year-CPD cycle, we will continue to support registrants to utilise the new scheme to fully develop and diversify their skills throughout their career to meet present and future patient and service-user needs.

We will also make improvements to the MyGOC platform and work towards meeting the Customer Service Excellence Standard, to ensure we are supporting registrants effectively.

I’m personally very excited about our optical sector familiarisation programme, which will further develop the GOC’s collective understanding of optical care and service redesign through visiting different practices and settings around the UK. A number of visits have already taken place, with more planned throughout the coming year. I look forward to engaging with professionals and professional bodies to ensure we continue to deepen our understanding of the sector and the challenges it faces.

Reforming our regulation

We have recently published our response to our call for evidence on changes to the Opticians Act and associated policies. We will continue to make progress on designing a blueprint for legislative reform and updating our policies, including developing a draft framework for business regulation and updating our 2013 statement on the testing of sight. In addition, we will continue to engage with the healthcare regulatory legislative reform programme led by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

We will also shortly launch a consultation on revised Standards of Practice to ensure they are up to date, maintain best practice and respond to developments in the professions and wider healthcare sector. I’m looking forward to hearing from stakeholders on key topics such as appropriate use by registrants of social media and conduct online, maintaining professional boundaries, leadership, delegation and supervision, technology, AI and digital literacy.

Fit for the future

We will continue work to make our regulatory operations fit for the future, including delivering a new electronic case management system to improve how we manage fitness to practise information and investing in our staff with a new people plan. We will also commence work on a new corporate strategy, including undertaking extensive research on the current state of the optical sector.

As always, we will continue our public duty and commitment to progress equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), which underpins all our work, which will include delivering our EDI strategy and annual report about how EDI is embedded across the organisation.

The programme of work is certainly ambitious. Although public confidence in the professions we regulate is already strong, successful implementation of our 2023/24 business plan will help us maintain those high standards, protect the public, and uphold public confidence in the optical professions and businesses we regulate.

You can read the 2023/24 Business Plan here.