Pre-reg supported during GOC fitness to practise hearing, after manager told him to see patients unsupervised

Now newly-qualified optometrist, Sunni

What happened?

Photo pending

Sunni (not his real name) began his pre-registration in 2019, however his store was closed when the Covid pandemic struck. At this point, Sunni accepted his employer’s invitation to work at a Covid testing centre until he was able to recommence his pre-reg. When optometry practices re-opened, Sunni returned to his optometry position however, he was assigned to work in a different store and had a new manager. The first few months went well, but then things changed, and Sunni’s new manager left the store one day. When Sunni realised that his manager had gone, he cancelled appointments for the patients he was due to see that afternoon because he knew that as a pre-reg he could not see them without a supervisor present. When Sunni’s manager found out that the appointments had been cancelled, he insisted Sunni see patients unsupervised if he was not around in the future. Sunni’s manager left the store on several occasions after this, and Sunni conducted eye exams on these occasions. He later received a GOC notification that he was under investigation was being for seeing patients unsupervised whilst working as a pre-reg.

How we helped

When Sunni received the letter from the GOC, he contacted the AOP for assistance. He was assigned to Cassandra Dighton, the Head of the Professional Discipline team. Cassie reviewed all of the evidence in Sunni’s case and advised him that whilst he would have to accept that he had worked without supervision as a pre-reg, the best strategy would be to present evidence to the GOC which highlighted the circumstances Sunni had found himself and explain why he hadn’t taken steps to report his manager, and present evidence to demonstrate that he understood the gravity of his mistake, learned from it, and wouldn’t repeat it. Cassie helped Sunni build a programme of CPD courses he could undertake to help him learn and reflect on the why he had seen patients without supervision when he knew this was not allowed and comprehend how his actions could be a risk to patients.

Cassie worked with Sunni to draft a witness statement which could be presented to the GOC panel which explained his side of story. She also obtained witness statements and references so that I had a defence bundle which could be presented before the GOC’s fitness to practise panel.

Cassie instructed a barrister to undertake the advocacy on Sunni’s behalf and ensured that either she, or a member of the AOP legal team was with him throughout the hearing.

The outcome

Sunni had a hearing before a fitness to practise committee of the GOC. The committee found that Sunni’s actions amounted to misconduct but concluded that his fitness to practise was not impaired. No sanction was imposed which brought an end to the matter. Sunni had thought he would either receive a warning or be suspended so he was so happy with the outcome.