Standards for optical businesses

Standards for optical businesses

The General Optical Council

The General Optical Council's (GOC) role as the UK regulator for the optical professions gives us statutory responsibility for setting standards. Our over-arching statutory objective is the protection of the public and in pursuing this objective we are required to promote and maintain proper standards of conduct for business registrants.

How do I use and apply the standards?

This document sets out the 12 standards that you must meet as a registered optical business. These standards are not listed in order of priority and include standards relating to both behaviour and clinical care.

The standards are designed to:

  • Set out our expectations clearly;
  • Take account of the fast pace of change within the optical sector;
  • Reflect changing public expectations, including the importance of candour and consent;
  • Ensure consistency with the standards we set for individual practitioners; and
  • Largely reflect what is good practice already.

These standards provide a framework that enables you to apply your professional judgement and consider how to apply them within the context of your business. To assist you in doing so, we have provided additional information about our expectations under each standard.

When thinking about how to apply a standard to your business, you may wish to consider whether your peers would take the same approach, and how you would justify your approach if challenged.

Who do these standards apply to?

These standards apply to all optical businesses who are registered with the GOC. However, for the benefit of patients and the public, we would expect all optical businesses to meet them, regardless of whether or not they are currently required to register with the GOC.

Complying with the standards will enable businesses to assist, encourage and support individual optometrists, dispensing opticians and students to comply with their individual professional standards, and in doing so, ensure they are providing good quality patient care and promoting professionalism.

We are seeking an extension of our powers so that we can require all optical businesses carrying out restricted functions to register with us (‘Restricted functions’ are those under Part IV of the Opticians Act 1989 – testing of sight, fitting of contact lenses and sale and supply of optical appliances). Compulsory registration will better protect the public by ensuring a consistent approach to those activities that tend to be within the control of businesses as opposed to individual registrants.

Where we say ‘you’ in this document, we mean:

  • You, the body corporate;
  • You, the director or responsible officer of an optical business (whether or not you are a registered optometrist or a registered dispensing optician).

For clarity, ‘you’ does not refer to someone who is simply an employee of the business and has no decision-making power and/or financial control over the business.

You are professionally accountable for what you do, or do not do. This means you must always be able to justify your decisions and actions.

Where we say ‘staff’ in this document, we mean anyone working within the context of the business in any of the following capacities:

  • Optometrists and dispensing opticians including independent prescribers (IPs), contact lens opticians (CLOs) and locums;
  • Student optometrists and student dispensing opticians;
  • Other regulated healthcare professionals such as ophthalmic medical practitioners (OMPs);
  • Optical assistants or similar titles performing the duties of an optical assistant;
  • Any other staff whose roles could have an impact on patient care, for example, reception staff.

Use of the term ‘registered staff’ refers to those individuals registered with the GOC as either optometrists, dispensing opticians, student optometrists or student dispensing opticians, or any other member of staff registered with a statutory healthcare regulator.

It is illegal for optometrists, dispensing opticians, student optometrists and student dispensing opticians to practise in the UK without registering with the GOC.

The role of the optical business

As a healthcare provider, your business has a responsibility to ensure the care and safety of patients and the public and to uphold professional standards.

The care, well-being and safety of patients must always be your first concern. This principle is at the very heart of the healthcare professions.

Healthcare professionals, optometrists, dispensing opticians and optical students who work within the context of your business also have a responsibility to ensure the care and safety of their patients and the public, and to uphold their own professional standards.

For optometrists, dispensing opticians and optical students, these responsibilities are set out in the Standards of Practice for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians, and Standards for Optical Students, which are complementary to this document and should be read in parallel.

The business has a part to play in facilitating professionals’ abilities to meet their own professional standards when they are working within the context of that business. Both individuals and businesses need to work together to meet their respective standards in order to ensure the care and safety of patients and the public.

Even if some members of staff do not have direct contact with patients, their decisions, behaviour and/or working environment can still affect patient care and safety.

Your business and your staff may also have other requirements to adhere to if you or they provide NHS services and, if this is the case, you should ensure that they are met.

If your business is involved in the delivery of the education pathway, such as providing supervised clinical placements to optical students, this is an important responsibility and you should work closely with education providers to ensure obligations are met.

When there are concerns

If someone raises concerns about your fitness to carry on business, we will refer to these standards when deciding if we need to take any action. You may need to demonstrate that your decision-making was informed by these standards and that you have acted in the best interests of your patients and the public.