GOC no longer able to request reflective statements in FTP cases

A review of gross negligence manslaughter cases in healthcare has removed the optical regulator’s power to ask for reflective material

GOC desk

The General Optical Council (GOC) will lose the power to request that registrants provide reflective material following a review of gross negligence manslaughter cases.

The move follows the publication of recommendations from a rapid policy review of gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare led by Professor Sir Norman Williams.

Former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, commissioned the review after the General Medical Council appealed a fitness to practise decision about a doctor who was convicted of the offence.

The report recommended that the GOC and General Medical Council (GMC) should no longer be able to require registrants to provide reflective material when investigating fitness to practise cases.

“This change will help ensure healthcare professionals are not afraid to use their notes for open, honest reflection which supports improvements in patient care,” it highlighted.

The report noted that before the review, seven of the nine healthcare regulators did not have the power to request information from registrants for fitness to practise purposes. The GOC and GMC were the exception.

“There was no suggestion that either the GMC or GOC had used this power to request reflective material when investigating fitness to practise concerns,” the report explained.

All of the regulators that gave evidence to the panel were clear that they would not request reflective material as part of their fitness to practise investigations.

“Given that regulators would not use the power to request reflective material for the purposes of investigating a registrant’s fitness to practise, the panel believes that the power to require registrants to provide reflective material should be removed,” the report stated.

As part of papers published in advance of the GOC’s latest council meeting, the optical regulator welcomed the recommendation.

GOC director of strategy, Alistair Bridge, said: “Although we currently have this power we have never used it and will not do so; we consider it important that registrants are able to reflect on their practice for the purpose of learning without fear of their reflections being used against them at a fitness to practise hearing.”

The Secretary of State has announced that he will be accepting all of the recommendations contained in the report.

Other recommendations of the review include removing the right of the GMC to appeal fitness to practise decisions by its Medical Practitioner Service Tribunal.

The Professional Standards Authority will retain its right to appeal these cases to ensure public protection.

The report also calls for concerns about the over-representation of black, Asian and minority ethnic healthcare professionals in fitness to practise cases to be investigated, understood and addressed.

The review was commissioned in February, with stakeholders submitting written submissions by 13 April.

Explaining the purpose of the review at its outset, Sir Norman highlighted that the panel would look at the processes that are involved in an individual coming to face an allegation of gross negligence manslaughter in the criminal courts and/or before their professional regulatory body.

"We will also be considering how reflective learning, openness and transparency can be properly sustained to ensure that there is a robust learning process when errors are made," Sir Norman highlighted.

"There may be lessons to learn for regulators in how to approach all of the above," he observed.

The AOP’s submission on the review highlighted that the GOC has expressed an intention to focus more on continuing professional development in the future.

"Encouraging more reflection and openness among healthcare professionals is clearly to the benefit of both practitioners and patients, in optics as elsewhere," the AOP submission emphasised.

"We therefore think it is vital that the Government and the healthcare professional regulators ensure that the use of reflection and openness is not compromised by the regulators' fitness to practise decisions, or by the application of the law on gross negligence manslaughter in the healthcare context," the statement concluded.