The General Optical Council’s (GOC) head of case progression has emphasised the need to address common fitness to practise (FTP) “myths” in an update to council on wait times.
At the GOC’s latest council meeting (February 28, London), Keith Watts highlighted that some practitioners have a skewed idea of how FTP operates.
“There are a lot of myths around the FTP process and there is work to do on dispelling some of those myths,” he emphasised.
He highlighted that contrary to what some registrants believe, issues of clinical conduct rarely result in an order of erasure from the register.
“The erasures tend to relate to convictions or personal conduct,” Mr Watts added.
The comments were made during Mr Watts’ presentation on the headway that the optical regulator is making in cutting down extensive FTP wait times.
The GOC is aiming to reduce the time taken from first receiving a complaint to make a decision on it to 78-weeks. The year-to-date average is 124-weeks.
A detailed approach
Mr Watts provided a detailed break-down of how the regulator is faring at the four different stages of the FTP process: triage, investigation, GOC hearing preparation and registrant hearing preparation and hearing.
The median age of cases in the triage stage is 15-weeks. Mr Watts highlighted that this statistic is affected by a discrete group of cases that have stayed at the first stage for some time.
“In triage we have a hard core of complaints that stick around for a while,” he shared.
“There are good reasons for that. There may be a third-party investigation going on or they may be complaints that are very difficult to investigate,” Mr Watts elaborated.
“On top of that we have a continuous churn of more straightforward cases that go through relatively quickly,” Mr Watts added.
The triage time for the past year has been four to five weeks, he observed.
At the second stage, investigation, the median age of complaints is 39 weeks.
“For me, this is the key stage for the achievement of the end-to-end KPI. Getting the investigation stage right holds the key to the whole process,” Mr Watts emphasised.
The approach that will be used going forward is to ‘frontload’ cases by getting them ready for hearing at the investigation stage.
This would ultimately replace the current third stage – GOC hearing preparation.
“The challenge around frontloading cases is that it is more resource intensive,” Mr Watts observed.
The median age of complaints at the GOC hearing preparation stage is 92-weeks.
Mr Watts highlighted that most of the complaints at this stage have come through using old processes.
The frontloading process is still being fine-tuned, Mr Watts emphasised.
“I’m seeing some cases coming through that have been frontloaded to a high standard and I’ve seen a couple of others that were purported to be frontloaded but there was more work to be done,” he outlined.
“There’s a bit of a mix at the moment. It is a process that is developing and we will continue to get better at it,” Mr Watts said.
The median age of complaints at the final stage – registrant hearing preparation and hearing – is 112 weeks.
This is weighted by the number of cases processed using older systems, Mr Watts explained.
“This is the other key stage moving forward. Cases will be coming into this stage quicker and that is where we have the restriction of our ability to get hearings scheduled,” he observed.