How we investigate a concern

Once a concern has been raised with us, we take the following steps:

Initial action

We acknowledge receipt of the concern and may undertake some preliminary enquiries (we refer to this process as 'triage'). If we decide to open a formal investigation, we will notify the registered fully qualified individual, student or business ('the registrant') to let them know that a concern is being investigated.

Investigate the concern

We gather evidence, which may include obtaining copies of clinical records from optical practices or hospitals. We may also obtain witness statements from the person raising the concern ('the complainant') or from other witnesses and we may obtain independent expert clinical opinion.

We send all the evidence that has been gathered to the registrant(s) and give them an opportunity to make written representations about the concern.

Once the complainant has been given an opportunity to comment on the registrant(s)’ written representations, the complaint will be considered by two case examiners (one registrant and one lay).

Our Fitness to Practise Rules set out our investigative powers under the Opticians Act.

Case examiner consideration

When considering the concern, the case examiners are provided with copies of:

  • The investigation form; all the evidence;
  • The registrant(s)’ representations and
  • Any comments made by the complainant.

Case examiners will decide whether each complaint should be referred to the independent Fitness to Practise Committee. The case examiners may decide to:

  • Take no further action (they may at the same time provide advice to the registrant about their future practise/conduct)
  • Issue a warning to the registrant. We have separate guidance in relation to warnings
  • Refer the allegation to the Fitness to Practise Committee, which will usually hold a public hearing to decide what action to take. Read more about our hearings
  • Refer the case to the Investigation Committee if they cannot agree or if they require an assessment of the registrant's health or performance.

We provide guidance for case examiners.

Investigation Committee consideration

The Investigation Committee is made up of registrants and lay members (people who are not optically trained).

The Investigation Committee deals with cases where case examiners cannot agree or where case examiners have requested an assessment of the registrant's health or performance.

Where the Committee is required to make a decision about whether or not to refer the case to the Fitness to Practise Committee, it has the same decision-making powers as the case examiners.

We have produced guidance about performance assessments and guidance for the Investigation Committee to follow when making decisions.

Interim orders

If the GOC Registrar, case examiners or Investigation Committee consider that a registrant may be a risk to the public or themselves, or if they think there is another reason that is in the public interest or the registrant's own interests, they can refer the registrant to the Fitness to Practise Committee to consider the imposition of an interim order that either:

  • Immediately suspends the registrant from the register;
  • That makes the registrant's registration conditional upon specific requirements.

Termination of referral

After the case examiners or Investigation Committee has referred a case to the Fitness to Practise Committee, case examiners may consider an application, from the registrant or the Council, as to whether the referral should be terminated. We have published guidance to assist those making or determining applications for review.