News from Council – 21 September 2022
The General Optical Council (GOC) held its third Council meeting of the year on 21 September 2022. Highlights from the meeting include the GOC’s Stakeholder Perceptions Research 2022, the approval of next steps and an updated timescale around the call for evidence on the Opticians Act 1989, and the approval of the GOC’s Annual Report 2021-22.
Stakeholder Perceptions Research 2022
Council noted and discussed the GOC’s Stakeholders Perceptions Research, which was undertaken to understand the views and perceptions of stakeholders of the GOC and its performance, including how it responded to the pandemic and how it is responding to challenges in the optical sector.
The research involved qualitative interviews with 30 key organisational stakeholders, including professional, representative, and membership bodies, patient organisations, Government and commissioner representatives, as well as a survey of GOC business registrants from across the UK. The fieldwork was carried out in April and May 2022.
Key findings and learnings from the survey include:
- Staff at the GOC would benefit from gaining a deeper understanding of the sector. The GOC agree that there is value in GOC staff having the opportunity to visit registrants working in clinical practice to broaden their understanding of optometry and dispensing optics. The GOC will introduce and embed a process for new staff as part of their induction, existing GOC staff, and lay Council and Advisory Panel members.
- The GOC could improve its ability to plan ahead strategically and horizon scan. The GOC have recently recruited a Head of Strategy, Policy and Standards to take a lead on horizon scanning. They will have an active role in keeping abreast of political, social and other developments that impact on the GOC’s strategic interests and disseminating updates to Senior Management Team and Council. The GOC’s Council strategy day in November 2022 will also include a horizon scanning session to inform early preparations for developing the next corporate strategy from 2025 onwards.
- The GOC could involve patients and the public more in its activities and work. The GOC will review how to improve engagement with the public, patients and patient organisations, and more effectively embed a process for their involvement with the GOC’s work. The GOC has recently proactively contacted and met with several patient organisations in relation to its call for evidence on the Opticians Act, and plan to carry out further patient research over the next few months.
- The GOC could improve its communication strategy. With a new Head of Communications in post as of August 2022, the GOC will review its communication strategy, appreciating that it is important not to overburden stakeholders and ensure that communication and consultation activities are being prioritised and planned effectively.
See all the findings in Stakeholders Perceptions Research 2022: Research Report.
Legislative reform programme: call for evidence
Council approved the proposed timescale and next steps for the GOC’s call for evidence on the Opticians Act 1989.
Based on a careful review and analysis of responses so far, the GOC have identified gaps in evidence and are planning to carry out further research on:
- Refraction for the purposes of the sight test:
- to hear more from individual patients, particularly in under-represented groups such as those with learning disabilities or visual impairment and the consumer/general public perspective;
- to understand more about the possible impacts on patient care if the refraction, binocular vision and eye health checks are not carried out by the same person and understand more about the role of orthoptists, particularly in hospital settings; and
- to learn from countries where the refraction and eye health checks are not carried out by the same person.
- Business regulation:
- to understand more about the business landscape that is beyond the GOC’s current remit. This could include who the businesses are, how many there are, what services they carry out, and potential risks of their business model; and
- to understand issues relating to business and ownership structures, supervision including the possible role of inspections within this, sanctions, access to consumer redress and registration fees charged to optical businesses.
The GOC will continue to review responses and will develop proposals for further research throughout September 2022, with the intention of commissioning the research by early October 2022 and a delivery timescale of mid-January 2023.
A response to the consultation, which will summarise and analyse the findings and set out the GOC’s views on them where it is in a position to do so, is planned to be published after Council in March 2023.
If changes to legislation or GOC policy are considered necessary and can be evidenced, a business case will be developed and further public and targeted stakeholder consultation activities will be carried out.
The GOC launched the call for evidence in March 2022. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is undertaking a review of all healthcare regulators’ governing legislation to ensure consistency between the powers they have to deliver their regulatory functions. Using the opportunity of these DHSC-led reforms, the call for evidence was launched to consider whether the Act is fit for purpose and whether there is any evidence of impact (positive or negative) to support any changes to the Act. This was conducted in conjunction with a consultation on associated GOC policies.
Annual Report 2021-22
Council approved the GOC’s Annual Report 2021-22, a statutory report on how the GOC has delivered on its three strategic objectives in 2021-22.
The report covers the period April 2021 to March 2022 and includes:
- the launch of the new Continuing Professional Development scheme in January 2022, which is more flexible and less prescriptive than the previous Continuing Education and Training scheme;
- updating and refreshing the requirements for the post-registration specialist qualifications for prescribing optometrists and contact lens opticians;
- continuing to engage with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and other regulators regarding the DHSC’s plan to reform all healthcare regulators’ legislation, as well as opening the call for evidence on the Opticians Act;
- reviewing the illegal practice strategy; and
- meeting 17 out of the 18 Professional Standards Authority's standards of good regulation for the period 1 October 2020 to 31 September 2021.
The report also highlights the GOC’s plans for 2022/23, and will be presented to the Privy Council by December 2022 and submitted to the Charity Commission by January 2023.