The Council of the General Optical Council (GOC) has approved an updated illegal practice protocol following a public consultation.
The decision was made at the GOC’s Council meeting held on 29 June 2022.
The main changes, featured in the draft protocol that the GOC consulted on, are:
- The addition of criteria to assess complaints (called “acceptance criteria”) so that only complaints about an alleged offence under the Opticians Act 1989 (“the Act”) are accepted and matters outside of the scope are referred elsewhere at an early stage;
- Requiring lawyer input throughout the cycle of an illegal practice case; and
- Greater clarity on when the GOC will consider a prosecution by outlining the specific factors it will assess.
Based on the feedback received during the consultation, the GOC has made the further following amendments to the protocol:
- Potential for serious harm, in addition to actual harm, has been included as a factor indicating higher risk caused by illegal practice;
- The case assessor and/or reviewing lawyer will seek advice from the GOC’s clinical advisers about clinical risk in appropriate cases;
- Sections about legislation relating to the testing of sight and sale of prescription spectacles have been made clearer; and
- Provision that the GOC may re-open a complaint following a referral to a third party if the third party is unable to act and the statutory time limit for bringing a prosecution has not expired.
The consultation was open for 12 weeks from 27 October 2021 to 24 January 2022. The consultation was carried out to identify whether the updated protocol provides greater clarity about the GOC’s remit regarding illegal practice; clarity on when the GOC can act and what action can be taken; and whether it has a closer link to our overarching objective to protect the public.
The protocol was last reviewed in 2015.
Dionne Spence, the GOC’s Director of Regulatory Operations, said:
“The purpose of this work is to clarify the GOC’s remit regarding illegal practice and ensure that we deliver the best outcome for the public and the sector under our current legislation. We are delighted to be implementing an updated illegal practice protocol and would like to thank our stakeholders for their constructive feedback to the consultation.
The protocol is stage one of our review of illegal practice, and the concerns that have been raised in consultation responses – about illegal practice and more general concerns about the limitations of our legislation – will be directed to the areas of work where they can be properly addressed, including through our call for evidence as we start to build a case for legislative reform.”