News from Council 13 May 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC) held its first remote Council meeting which considered the Education Strategic Review (ESR), fitness to practise (FTP) performance, new guidance on holding remote hearings, and its response to COVID-19.


Council noted and endorsed the steps the GOC has taken, including:

  • GOC guidance statements on the emergency to remove unnecessary regulatory barriers to the provision of care
  • Impact on healthcare and specifically the optical sector
  • Collaborative working with the optical sector, NHS bodies and other regulators to consult on work and share information
  • Regular communication with registrants and stakeholders to keep them informed about the latest information and guidance

Council will next meet to discuss the GOC’s strategy post-COVID-19, which will inform the future review of the business plan for 2020-21 and the ‘Fit for the Future’ Strategic Plan (2020-25).
The GOC will continue to monitor the situation and how it impacts on the optical sector and its regulatory work.

Education Strategic Review (ESR)

Council received an update on the ESR and discussed the progress of the key deliverables and the continuation of the review in light of the COVID-19 emergency.

Due to the emergency, some areas of work are progressing at a slower pace to enable continued engagement and consultation across the optical and education sectors.

The key deliverables are being developed in conjunction with two Expert Advisory Groups (EAGs) for optometrists and dispensing opticians, and include:

  • Outcomes for registration, which describe the knowledge, skills and behaviour individuals must meet to register with the GOC
  • Standards for approved qualifications, which outline the expected context for the delivery and assessment of the outcomes by a single point of accountability
  • Assurance Method for Approved Qualifications, which explains how evidence will be gathered to decide whether qualifications leading to registration meet the GOC’s outcomes and standards

Council thanked all those involved in the co-production of the various strands of activity within the ESR, including members of the EAGs and the attendees of the GOC’s recent roundtable on the funding of optical education.

Fitness to practise (FTP) performance update

The GOC previously completed a four-month pilot of a revised triage process, which concluded in December 2019. As a result of this new process, the number of full investigations opened in triage decreased to 43% for Q2-Q4 2019-2020, compared to 83% for the same period last year.

Since January 2019, the GOC has also seen a 62% reduction in the number of open cases at the investigation stage and during 2019-2020, a 31% reduction in the overall number of open FTP cases.

The GOC has also focused on progressing more of the aged cases through to case examiners.

Guidance on remote hearings

Council approved the new process for holding remote hearings and guidance for panel members. Between 19 March and 1 May, the GOC has held 17 remote hearings.

The guidance will assist the hearings panel in taking a consistent approach when deciding whether a remote hearing is appropriate.

The guidance has been implemented with immediate effect and will be published on the GOC website later this month.