News from Council - 15 July 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC) held its second remote Council meeting on Wednesday 15 July which considered a review of the strategic plan, the Education Strategic Review (ESR), temporary changes to optometry education and training requirements, the GOC annual report and the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) Annual Report 2019-2020.

Strategic plan review resulting from COVID-19 pandemic

Council reviewed the five-year ‘Fit for the Future’ strategic plan in relation to the impacts of COVID-19. It was agreed that no significant changes are required at this stage, although some minor additions and changes to emphasis will be made.  Council also identified areas of the plan that could be accelerated, delayed or cancelled should the GOC be further impacted by COVID-19. Key workstreams such as the ESR and the Continuing Education and Training (CET) review will continue.

Education Strategic Review (ESR): support for implementation

Council considered use of reserves to fund two schemes to support the implementation of proposals stemming from the Education Strategic Review (ESR).

Council approved the use of reserves of up to £315,000 over a period of nine years beginning in 2021. This will support two schemes:

  1. Longitudinal research to measure the effectiveness of our outcomes and standards for GOC approved qualifications on new registrants’ competence, confidence and capability (measuring the change we want to see).
  2. A knowledge exchange/ information hub to facilitate cross-sector knowledge-led collaborations in supporting programme leaders and academic faculty to design innovative, integrated qualifications that meet GOC outcomes and standards, reducing the risk of poorly designed education programmes failing to meet GOC standards.

Optical education: annual monitoring and reporting

Council considered the Approval and Quality Assurance (A&QA) Annual Monitoring & Reporting Sector Report for the optical education sector for the academic year 2018/19.

Council discussed the findings of this report which identified the following themes and risks affecting the optical education sector:

  • Optometry (OO) programmes reported a high ratio of applications to admissions, strong academic qualifications (average offer) amongst prospective students and high levels of student progression and attainment.
  • Ophthalmic dispensing (DO) programmes reported high levels of student progression but appear to have experienced difficulty in recruiting students.
  • National Student Survey (NSS) scores for OO and DO programmes outperform the national average.
  • Independent prescribing (IP) programmes showed a high level of student attainment in their internal exams

The report will be published on the GOC website later this month.

Quality Assurance Handbook (Optometry): temporary changes to standards and requirements in light of COVID-19

Council considered temporary changes to the optometry education standards and requirements for the incoming cohort of optometry students in Autumn 2020. The changes were in light of a proposal from the College of Optometrists (College) to make temporary arrangements to its Scheme for Registration (SfR). The GOC intends to run a short, targeted consultation on the proposed temporary changes. Full details on the proposed changes are included in the Council papers.

GOC annual report

Council considered and approved the GOC annual report for 2019/20. The report contains information regarding the arrangements to ensure adherence to good practice regarding equality and diversity and information regarding the Fitness to Practise (FTP)annual report.

Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) Annual Report 2019-2020

Council noted the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) Annual Report for 2019-2020. Nockolds Resolution have delivered the OCCS since 2014 and provide an effective and efficient mediation service between patients and registrants on a variety of lower level complaints which may otherwise be received by the GOC Fitness to Practise (FTP) team.

Last year there was an 80% reduction in referrals from the OCCS to the FTP team as a result of the work undertaken by the OCCS to increase knowledge on how effective complaint handling at the earliest stage can minimise the escalation to fitness to practise.

Since 2014 there has been an almost 260% increase in enquiries received alongside an almost 60% reduction in costs providing excellent value for money for the GOC. OCCS Annual Report will be published on the OCCS and GOC website in due course.

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) decision on recent petition

Council noted that the PSA has considered the matters raised from a recent petition calling for the GOC to be investigated for conflicts of interest. The PSA decided that there were no grounds to carry out an investigation into the GOC.

Chief Executive and Registrar, Lesley Longstone said:

"We welcome the decision from the PSA and will cooperate with any further information requests as part of our next performance review in October 2020".

The next Council meeting takes place on 11 November 2020.