The General Optical Council (GOC) has met 16 of the 18 standards of good regulation following a performance review by the Professional Standards Authority’s (PSA).

The PSA review concluded that the GOC had not met Standard 10 because of errors on its register, and had not met Standard 15 regarding the length of time taken to resolve its fitness to practise cases.

Errors on the register

The PSA review found three separate, unrelated errors on the GOC’s register which meant that the GOC has not met Standard 10. One error was the result of an administrative oversight, meaning that a registrant’s suspension was not marked on the register. Another was caused by the GOC adding individuals to the register who had qualified from a degree course the GOC had not approved. The third was the result of the GOC’s system being unable to distinguish between courses which it had either provisionally or fully approved. In each case, the GOC subsequently took appropriate action to correct the register and change its processes. Together, however, they indicate the GOC has not been able to maintain an accurate register during the performance review period.

Fitness to practise processes and timeliness

This is the sixth year the GOC has not met the Standard relating to timeliness. The review found that the GOC was “implementing an improvement plan to tackle its longstanding issues, including the introduction of a new triage process to reduce the number of complaints entering the fitness to practise system unnecessarily.”  Whilst the GOC is working to close its older, more complex cases, this has had the result of further worsening its key timeliness measures. Because the GOC is still taking too long to resolve fitness to practise cases, the PSA determined that Standard 15 was not met.

In response the GOC said “It was observed that the GOC is implementing an improvement plan to address the issues of timeliness in its fitness to practise processes. This commitment to improve is outlined within the GOC Strategic Plan for 2020-25, which includes the development of an improved case management system and a modernisation of its processes.”

Lesley Longstone, GOC Chief Executive and Registrar, said:

“We welcome the outcome of the PSA report and are pleased to have met the majority of the Standards, particularly in light of the challenges we have all faced during COVID-19.

“It is heartening to note that the efforts made to adapt to the COVID-19 emergency have not gone unnoticed. We moved as quickly as we could to release a number of statements to help support our registrants throughout the pandemic and clarify certain areas of practice to protect public safety, as well as outlining the amendments to our regulatory functions.

“We are aware that there is still work to be done to improve the timeliness of our fitness to practise cases and have been working to implement our improvement plan, in line with our ‘Fit for the Future’ Strategic Plan for 2020-25. A new triage process has been introduced to ensure that we are only investigating cases where there is a genuine fitness to practice concern, which has helped to reduce the number of cases entering the system unnecessarily.

“The accuracy of our registers is a fundamental part of our duty to protect the public. Although the errors noted were resolved in good time, we will be taking on board the feedback that we have received from the PSA to ensure that we are continuously improving and on track to delivering world-class regulatory practice.”

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