GOC publishes response to call for evidence on the Opticians Act and associated policies

The General Optical Council has today published its response to its analysis of information received following its call for evidence on the Opticians Act and consultation on associated GOC policies.  

The call for evidence took place between March and July 2022 and sought views, information and factual evidence on the need for changes to the Opticians Act and associated GOC policies. 

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) is currently carrying out a review of all healthcare regulators’ underpinning legislation to ensure consistency between the powers that all regulators have to deliver their regulatory functions and operating frameworks. The GOC used this opportunity to review whether further changes are required to the Opticians Act to ensure continued effective public protection. 

The GOC received 353 responses which included over 8,000 individual comments. 

The main area where the GOC will seek change to legislation is to extend regulation to all businesses carrying out restricted functions. Work will now begin on designing a draft framework for business regulation ahead of public consultation. 

The GOC has also identified opportunities to advance public protection where it can without legislative change, including through its forthcoming review of its standards (to be launched in April 2023) and issuing GOC position statements on key topics. 

After careful consideration, the GOC decided that, at this point in time, dispensing opticians should not be permitted to refract for the purposes of the sight test. However, it agreed to consider updating its 2013 statement on the testing of sight.  

Dr Anne Wright CBE, Chair of Council, said: 

“We would like to thank everyone who submitted evidence to the call, which we have carefully considered. 

Our vision for legislative reform is to ensure that we can continue to protect the public and that the Act is fit for the future given the ever-changing political, commissioning, technological, delivery of care and business landscape. 

Extending regulation to all businesses carrying out restricted functions is long overdue. This vital reform would close an important gap in public protection and create a more level playing field for optical businesses. 

Today’s publication of the response document represents an important staging post on the road to legislative reform. We are well positioned to move to the detailed design of a modernised legislative framework and look forward to engaging further with stakeholders as we continue this important work.” 

Chief Executive and Registrar, Leonie Milliner, said:  

“I’d like to thank everyone who responded to last year’s call for evidence, engaged with us and participated in our research exercises. It was encouraging to see a significant degree of stakeholder consensus on many issues, and we hope to build on this as we move forward. 

We understand that many dispensing opticians will be disappointed by our decision on refraction. Dispensing opticians’ unique contribution as registered health professionals is hugely important to sustaining the nation’s eye heath and to delivering excellent patient care, and we look forward to exploring opportunities to advance the profession of dispensing optics with sector bodies, including ABDO. 

Over the last decade technology and business models have changed so we will consider reviewing our 2013 statement on the testing of sight to ensure that it reflects contemporary practice and continues to deliver public protection.”   

The GOC will next plan how best to deliver the commitments set out in its response and prepare a timetable, which Council will consider at its meeting on 28 June. Where changes to legislation or GOC policy are considered necessary and can be evidenced, the GOC will carry out further public and targeted stakeholder consultation activities on its proposals.