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“This is an area that is changing constantly”

AOP Councillors discussed how the GOC can improve its handling of illegal practice at the latest Council meeting

AOP gavel

Illegal practice in the optical sector, a new AOP mentoring scheme and NHS commissioning of primary eye care across the UK were among topics discussed at the latest AOP Council meeting held virtually on 9 June.

The meeting began with Council Chairman Dr Julie-Anne Little inviting new members of Council to introduce themselves briefly.

The meeting marked the beginning of a new structure for the AOP Council, with 14 Councillors elected to represent members by geographic constituency and 20 designated Councillors representing specific membership groups.

Outgoing AOP chief executive, Henrietta Alderman, discussed the membership organisation’s strategy, structure and key objectives for 2021.

The presentation was Alderman’s final appearance before Council ahead of her retirement, with the AOP’s new chief executive, Adam Sampson, stepping into the role on 14 June.

Councillors had the opportunity to discuss the AOP’s response to the General Optical Council’s (GOC) stakeholder survey on illegal practice in the optical sector.

The AOP response to the survey was subsequently published on the AOP website following the meeting.

AOP policy director, Tony Stafford, highlighted that the pandemic has driven more consumer behaviour online.

“We are very aware that this is an area that is changing constantly,” he shared.

Councillors shared their views on areas of illegal practice within the optical sector that pose the highest risk of harm, how these areas might change over the next few years and how the GOC could improve its strategy on tackling illegal practice.

Raising public awareness around contact lens safety and updating registrants on the action the GOC takes against illegal supply were among suggestions raised by Council.

Councillors highlighted the need for the GOC to increase its understanding and engagement with social media which can be used as a platform for illegal practice and unsafe advice to patients.

They highlighted that both the AOP and GOC have a role to play in supporting whistleblowing, with the potential for anonymised streamlined reporting of illegal practice.

At the meeting, the AOP Council voted for two members of Council to join the AOP Board. Independent prescribing Councillor, Fatima Nawaz, and North West England Councillor, Dharmesh Patel, were elected to join the Board.

OT editor, John White, provided an update to Council about recent developments at OT and plans for the journal’s future development.

Presentations were also delivered on NHS commissioning of primary eye care within the UK and a new mentoring scheme that the AOP is introducing.