GOC pledges to support the sector to "reduce barriers" to enhanced services

Regulator’s registrant survey revealed that the “majority” of practitioners want to provide more eye care services in the community

GOC sign

The General Optical Council has announced that it will work with the sector to help “reduce the barriers” to providing community-based eye care services.

Pledging its commitment this week (9 January), the regulator reported that research it had performed revealed that the “majority” of optometrists and dispensing opticians are keen to provide more eye care services in the community, with 97% of patients reporting a high level of satisfaction for the care provided at their opticians.

However, the findings, which have been released as part of the GOC’s second-round of results from its registrant survey, also show that there are a number of barriers that must be overcome before the shift to community-based health care can take place.  

The research shows that just a third of patients and the public view opticians as healthcare providers, and 45% of practitioners say they have faced pressure to meet commercial targets at the expense of patient care at some point during their careers.

Alarmingly, the survey, which secured responses from more than 4000 registrants, also found that 41% of practitioners had come under pressure to sell a product or service that the patient did not need.

On learning of the GOC's pledge, the AOP's chief executive, Henrietta Alderman, told OT that the Association welcomed the GOC's commitment to work with the optical sector on this issue, adding: "We are pleased that the GOC recognises the mix of complex barriers, which are impacting the delivery of community based eye care services in the UK. It is because these issues are so broad, from public awareness to the commercial pressures felt by registrants, that the expertise of those working in the profession day-to-day is absolutely vital and is recognised. There is not a one size fits all approach and while the education review will be an integral part of change in the profession an effective model for business regulation is equally as important. We are keen to represent our members to ensure a full range of obstacles are addressed proportionately.” 

Other findings from the survey showed that 45% of registrants would not feel comfortable raising a fitness to practise concern with the GOC. Furthermore, 40% would not feel comfortable raising a concern with their employer.

Commenting on the findings, GOC chief executive and registrar, Samantha Peters, said: “Public satisfaction with opticians remains extremely high and it is clear from our previous research that patients are confident in the standard of care they will receive from their practitioner.”

However, she continued: “If the professions are going to deliver more eye care services in the community – which has enormous potential benefits – then the public need to be confident that commercial pressures will not compromise patient safety. Many patients still see their optician as a retailer rather than a healthcare provider and that perception needs to change if the professions are going to have a greater role in delivering eye health care in the community.