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Case study

GOC fitness to practise hearing - defending a member against an allegation of dishonesty

Locum optometrist Julie's story

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What happened

Julie (not her real name) was referred to the GOC by a practice after she had informed a colleague she had carried out a visual field test on a patient, and was then subsequently witnessed amending the patient record to reflect the test being performed.

The practice decided to investigate Julie’s account of what happened, and contacted the patient concerned to ascertain if they could recall a visual field test being performed. The patient confirmed the test had not been completed that day and the practice then referred Julie to the GOC.

Julie contacted us as soon as the director at her work informed her that she would be referred to the GOC.

The GOC raised an allegation of dishonesty against Julie. She submitted representations before the Case Examiners denying the allegations, but the matter was referred to a fitness to practise hearing.

How we helped

Julie’s personal mitigation, good character, the absence of any previous fitness to practise history and the fact that no harm was caused to the patient, were all factors in support of Julie and were highlighted by the AOP legal team during the hearing.

During the hearing, Julie explained to the fitness to practise committee that she had completed a visual field test on one of the patients seen that morning but had incorrectly recorded the results on another patient’s record in error. She was unable to recall which patient she had tested for visual fields that morning, due to the clinic being busy,  subject to 20-25-minute testing times, and the clinic running behind schedule. Due to the GOC’s delay in bringing this matter to a fitness to practise hearing, no witnesses were able to reliably recall the incident either. The patient records from that morning did not support Julie’s account.

The outcome

The fitness to practise committee found the allegations against Julie proven on the balance of probabilities, and that Julie’s actions were dishonest and misleading. 

They determined that Julie’s fitness to practise was currently impaired and decided to suspend her registration for a period of nine months to uphold the proper standards of conduct and behaviour and to maintain public confidence in the profession.

Where dishonesty is found proven by the fitness to practise committee, erasure is the normality and suspension the exception. Therefore, a suspension of nine months for Julie was a successful outcome and enabled her to keep her GOC registration.