AOP addresses member concerns regarding GOC e-service plans

The GOC has outlined an intention to ask registrants for consent to serve statutory notices by email from 2024

A person’s hands using the keyboard of a Mac laptop. 

The AOP has issued a statement regarding the General Optical Council’s (GOC) intention to serve statutory notices by email with consent, recognising concerns expressed by members.

Statutory notices are issued as part of GOC registration and fitness to practise processes.

This includes where a registrant is subject to a GOC fitness to practise matter, interim order proceedings, or if the GOC is seeking to remove a practitioner from the register or refusing to retain or restore them to the register.

The GOC is legally obliged to provide statutory notices in paper form unless it has consent from the registrant for e-service, it has noted in a communication to registrants.

From 2024, the GOC said it intends to include an additional question when individuals register or renew their registration, in order to obtain consent for e-service.

Scott Shadbolt, head of professional discipline at the AOP, said in a statement: “We’re aware that this change has caused concern for some members, who are rightly worried that matters of such significance to their professional practice should not be treated lightly.”

The AOP professional discipline team has successfully challenged the GOC previously when it attempted to introduce an email service for statutory notices without seeking consent.

Following a consultation period, the GOC published a policy on service of statutory notices by email in 2021, including assurances that the GOC would seek consent from registrants to receive statutory notices by email, and only serve notices to email addresses provided by the registrant for the purpose.

Shadbolt continued: “While we are pleased to see they have now altered their approach, we understand members may still have concerns. We will therefore provide members with guidance at the earliest possible opportunity in the New Year, so that they can make an informed decision about whether or not to consent to e-service.”

The GOC registration window will open in late January 2024.

In a statement to OT, the GOC responded: “The GOC’s statutory notices are currently issued to all registrants by both email and letter.

“We want to communicate with our registrants according to their chosen preferences. Opting into the e-service gives registrants the opportunity to receive statutory notices only by email should they prefer. Registrants who would still like to receive notices by both letter and email are free not to opt into the service and will receive both written and electronic communications.

“We believe the e-service can offer many advantages to registrants who want to use it, including more timely and efficient communications, environmental benefits from using less paper and cost savings for the GOC, which we can potentially pass back to registrants,” the statement concluded.