Before the GOC in 2021
An at-a-glance summary of recent fitness to practise decisions published by the optical regulator
Below OT presents a summary of General Optical Council fitness to practise decisions published over the last six months.
A Bradford-based student optometrist has been suspended for six months following inappropriate use of social media.
A GOC fitness to practise committee decision listed a series of statements made by Haroon Zubair (GOC registration SO-14452) on social media which included extreme language and were discriminatory.
The decision noted that Zubair had deleted the social media account that the statements were made on and there was no evidence that he had repeated the behaviour since the misconduct.
The committee concluded that erasure would be disproportionate, taking into account Zubair’s age, career stage, developing insight and the fact that his references indicated that his skill set would be of future benefit to the public.
“The committee decided that a suspension period of six months was appropriate in the circumstances. Any longer would be disproportionate bearing in mind that the registrant was at an early stage of their career,” the decision stated.
Fawad Ahmed (GOC registration SD-9622), a student dispensing optician based in Manchester, has been erased from the GOC register after his fitness to train was found impaired.
Ahmed had received convictions for conspiring to defraud, driving above the specified controlled drug limit, driving while disqualified and using a vehicle while uninsured.
He did not declare these convictions to the optical regulator.
A fitness to practise committee decision highlighted that while the conspiracy to defraud took place some time ago, in 2011, it involved sustained dishonesty for a significant period of time.
The committee found that Ahmed had shown limited insight into the behaviour which led to the convictions.
He also attempted to avoid declaring his criminal convictions when applying to become a student dispensing optician.
In mitigation, the committee found that Ahmed had engaged with the regulatory process and the misconduct occurred at the beginning of his career within the profession.
He had declared his convictions on his first retention application to the GOC. Ahmed had also received positive testimonials, including from an employer.
The committee emphasised that although the convictions were declared in Ahmed’s first retention application, he went on to give untruthful evidence to the committee.
“Having found a pattern of dishonest behaviour, the committee formed the view that the registrant’s behaviour was fundamentally incompatible with them remaining on the register,” the decision stated.
Derbyshire-based dispensing optician, Joanne Donnelly (GOC registration D-16951), has been erased from the GOC register.
Her fitness to practise was found to be impaired after she worked while under the influence of alcohol.
A fitness to practise committee heard that Donnelly presented to work in the morning while smelling of alcohol and acting in an uncharacteristic manner.
The store manager suspended Donnelly from work and directed her to return home in a taxi.
Following her referral to the GOC, Donnelly contacted the optical regulator to say that she had not consumed alcohol but had taken cold and flu medication for a chest infection that might have affected her.
In its findings on the facts of the case, this explanation was rejected by the committee.
The committee approached the registrant’s misconduct of attending work while under the influence of alcohol as an isolated incident.
The misconduct occurred in October 2018 and there was no evidence of repetition of the behaviour.
However, the committee considered the fact that the misconduct had occurred within a four-year warning period for previous alcohol-related activity as an aggravating factor.
Also included within aggravating factors weighed up by the committee was a lack of remorse, remediation or insight by Donnelly.
The committee concluded that public confidence in the profession could not be sustained unless the registrant was removed from the register.
William Hay (GOC registration 01-10817), an optometrist based in Aberdeen, has received a nine-month suspension order from the GOC.
The sanction relates to a failure to carry out an adequate sight test, refer a patient for appropriate treatment and maintain adequate records.
Hay examined a patient in April 2016 and July 2017 and failed to refer the patient urgently for possible wet macular degeneration.
After a routine cataract referral was made following the 2017 appointment, an ophthalmologist referred the patient urgently to the macular clinic.
A diagnosis of wet age-related macular degeneration was made with advanced and chronic changes in both eyes.
In mitigation, the GOC took into account Hay’s efforts to remediate his failings, testimonial evidence and reports from supervisors.
The committee also gave weight to the fact that Hay had fully cooperated with the GOC and the Grampian NHS review.
The committee noted that the failures in this case resulted in “extremely serious harm” to the patient.
“The registrant had failed to identify the signs of a sight threatening condition which a practitioner would encounter on a regular basis,” the decision noted.
The GOC considered a nine-month suspension order necessary to mark the seriousness of the misconduct.
Plymouth-based student optometrist, Bella Reid (GOC registration SO-11342), has been erased from the GOC register.
A GOC fitness to practise committee found that Reid’s fitness to train was impaired by reason of misconduct after she forged her supervisor’s signature to falsely confirm that she had attended her last day of placement.
The committee considered Reid’s lack of engagement with the GOC, limited insight into her misconduct, lack of remorse and initial denial of the misconduct to be aggravating factors in the case.
In mitigation, the committee took into account the fact that the registrant was experiencing personal difficulties and that she admitted forging the signature during the course of the university’s fitness to practise procedure.
The GOC determined that erasure was the appropriate sanction.
“The committee considered that the registrant’s dishonest misconduct was a serious departure from the relevant professional standards,” the decision concluded.
Norwich-based dispensing optician, Jeremy Simeons (GOC registration D-7435) has been erased from the GOC register following his conviction for the sexual assault of a child under the age of 13.
Simeons received a two-year prison sentence after his conviction in May 2020 and a 10-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order.
A GOC fitness to practise committee concluded that the serious nature of the offending by the registrant had brought the profession into disrepute and would undermine public confidence in the profession.
The committee also determined that Simeons had no insight into his offending and there was a high risk of repetition.
Committee chair Anne Johnstone highlighted that erasure was the only proportionate and appropriate sanction available in the case.
“In all the circumstances it was the committee’s judgement that the registrant’s behaviour which led to the conviction was fundamentally incompatible with ongoing professional registration,” the decision stated.
Fazeela Makda (GOC registration 01-25045), an optometrist based in Nuneaton, has been suspended from the optical regulator’s register for a period of six months.
The sanction related to accessing patient records without clinical justification and making amendments to records without examining patients. Makda admitted her actions were dishonest.
A GOC fitness to practise committee decision highlighted that a dishonest amendment of clinical records is serious misconduct and demands a finding of impairment to protect the confidence held by the public in the profession and the optical regulator.
The committee took into account the seriousness of the dishonesty which involved numerous patient records and took place over a lengthy period of time.
However, the committee also considered the fact that Makda made no personal gain from her actions and had references attesting to her good character.
Makda also admitted the behaviour, displayed remorse and showed genuine insight into her actions.
The committee considered that a six-month suspension was the appropriate sanction, taking into account “the public interest that lies in retaining the services of a committed and talented optometrist whose contribution to the profession is recognised by their colleagues.”
Glasgow-based optometrist, David Little (GOC registration 01-10284) has been suspended from the GOC register for 12 months after he amended patient records.
A GOC fitness to practise committee decision found that the amendments did not reflect an accurate account of patient appointments.
The committee concluded that Little’s actions, which included dishonesty, fell well below the standard to be expected of a registered professional given his responsibility to maintain accurate and clear records.
His actions related to two patients over a “significant” period of time, the decision noted.
The committee considered that the sanction of erasure would be disproportionate considering that the dishonesty occurred five years ago, the registrant had remedied his record keeping and he had been practising up until his retirement in March 2020.
The decision highlighted that there had been no repetition of the behaviour since the incident and the registrant did not present a risk to patients.
The GOC has suspended Cheltenham-based optometrist, Ariana Faderani (GOC registration 01-31763) from its register for 12 months after she falsified sight test records to inflate her sales record and deceived her employer by using study days for recreational travel.
A GOC fitness to practise committee noted that bonus payments were associated with sales figures.
The committee accepted that the motive for Faderani’s dishonesty in falsifying records was not financial but was aimed at boosting her standing with her employer.
“However, there was a clear risk to patient safety in her falsification of records and the registrant was fully aware that the effect of her dishonest manipulation of records was that she received money to which she was not entitled,” the decision stated.
The committee considered that a 12-month suspension order would be sufficient to protect patients and the public interest.
“It considers that the Registrant has the potential to be a useful member of the profession and took into account in particular her youth and inexperience, professionally and personally,” the decision concluded.
Cardiff-based dispensing optician, Lee Purdy (GOC registration D-10419) has been erased from the GOC register after he processed false transactions and removed cash from the till for his own personal use.
A GOC fitness to practise committee found Purdy’s fitness to practise impaired by reason of misconduct and health.
Among mitigating factors considered by the committee, Purdy had no previous fitness to practise issues, there was no repetition of the behaviour, he had repaid the money taken and cooperated with GOC proceedings.
However, the committee stated in its decision that Purdy had demonstrated limited insight into his dishonesty and there was a “significant” risk of repetition of the behaviour. The dishonesty was persistent and covered up.
“The committee is satisfied that the only appropriate and proportionate response to protect the wider public interest in these circumstances is to direct erasure,” the decision stated.