Our approach

Optometrist examining patients eyes

The General Optical Council (GOC) sets standards for individual optometrists, dispensing opticians, and the optical businesses that register with the GOC. These all have the ultimate aim of protecting patients and the public. As part of our work to protect members, we provide guidance and advice to help you understand and meet these standards such as our Member guide to the GOC's Standards of Practice and the GOC's Business Standards.

These pages offer practical advice to business owners and individual practitioners to help them meet the GOC standards that are designed to protect patients.

We believe that although each individual professional is responsible for the quality of their own practice, their work circumstances can make a very big difference to their ability to do a good job. It is the responsibility of all employers, whether they are registered with the GOC or not, to create a work environment that enables professionals to do their jobs as well and as safely as possible for the benefit of all patients.

Providing sight tests and eye examinations is central to community optometric practice and a key public health service both in providing vision correction for all, and identifying and diagnosing sight-threatening conditions as well as other physiological conditions that may be identified through an eye health check.

There are various components to any examination: history and symptoms, routine procedures, refraction, internal and external examinations, targeted investigations and record keeping.

Most tests are routine and most patients do not have significant abnormalities. Overall optometric practice has a very high safety record. Nevertheless, like all clinical practice and human interaction, sight tests and eye examinations are not risk free, as examples:

  • Errors may be made in prescribing
  • Errors may be made in dispensing
  • One or more procedures may be missed
  • Pathologies may not be detected

Practice systems, and any personal systems practitioners use, need to be designed to minimise risk and support practitioners in reducing risk.

We understand that our employer members work within financial constraints and that our employee members are realistic about this. But it is imperative that our employee members are not subject to unreasonable pressure. The advice on these web pages is designed pragmatically, to help our employer members meet their regulatory requirements and support their staff to do the same, while succeeding financially.

For employers, the advice includes:

  • How to structure the practice day so that all patients receive the time they need with an optometrist, and optometrists have the time they require to write notes and referrals, as well as get appropriate rest breaks
  • How to be sure that repeat tests and internal referrals take place and that worrying clinical signs are followed up, including when patients fail to attend a follow-up appointment
  • How to avoid reward structures for staff that run the risk of them putting patients’ interests second to their own financial interests

For employees, locums and pre-registration optometrists and their supervisors, we explain your responsibilities, and what you have a right to expect from the practice(s) where you work.

GOC Business Standards

As a registered optical business you must ensure that, in relation to:

1. Your patients:
1.1. Patients can expect to be safe in your care
1.2. Patient care is delivered in a suitable environment
1.3. Communication is clear and effective; and
1.4. Patients can give valid consent to treatment

2. Your culture and governance:
2.1. The services you provide are open and transparent
2.2. You ensure compliance with relevant regulations
2.3. You have a system of clinical governance in place; and
2.4. Confidentiality is respected

3. Your staff:
3.1. Staff are able to exercise their professional judgment
3.2. Staff are suitably trained, qualified and registered
3.3. Staff are adequately supervised; and
3.4. Staff collaborate with others, where appropriate

GOC Standards of Practice for Optometrists and DOs

As an optometrist or dispensing optician you must:

Listen to patients and ensure that they are at the heart of the decisions made about their care.

  1. Communicate effectively with your patients
  2. Obtain valid consent
  3. Show care and compassion for your patients
  4. Keep your knowledge and skills up to date
  5. Recognise, and work within, your limits of competence
  6. Conduct appropriate assessments, examinations, treatments and referrals
  7. Maintain adequate patient records
  8. Ensure that supervision is undertaken appropriately and complies with the law
  9. Work collaboratively with colleagues in the interests of patients
  10. Protect and safeguard patients, colleagues and others from harm
  11. Ensure a safe environment for your patients
  12. Show respect and fairness to others and do not discriminate
  13. Maintain confidentiality and respect your patients’ privacy
  14. Maintain appropriate boundaries with others
  15. Be honest and trustworthy
  16. Do not damage the reputation of your profession through your conduct
  17. Respond to complaints effectively
  18. Be candid when things have gone wrong