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 student optometrist has been erased from the GOC register following convictions for possession of class A and class B drugs, as well as possession of a knife.
London-based Syed Shah (SO-13847) was arrested in October 2018 after he was found to be in possession of a black lock knife in a public place. He also had quantity of cocaine and cannabis.
Shah was initially suspended for 12 months in October 2020 in relation to his convictions.
The registrant told a GOC fitness to practise committee that he did not wish to pursue his optometry studies further.
The committee determined that nothing less than an order for erasure would be sufficient for the purpose of protecting the public, upholding proper professional standards and maintaining public confidence in the profession.
Leeds-based student dispensing optician, Haroon Amin (GOC registration SD-7794) has been erased from the GOC register after he failed to engage with the regulator after an initial 12-month suspension.
Amin was sanctioned by the GOC in November 2020 after he allegedly copied and amended the essay of another student, handing it in as his own work.
The optical regulator also found that Amin had dishonestly claimed that a member of the GOC had visited his home and taken documents relating to a dangerous driving conviction.
In the latest hearing, a fitness to practise committee described how Amin had failed to engage with the GOC since the original hearing.
“He has not provided any evidence of reflection, insight, remorse or remediation,” the decision noted.
In Amin’s last telephone conversation with the optical regulator in September 2019, he said he did not intend to continue training as a dispensing optician.
The fitness to practise committee directed that Amin’s name to be removed from the register.
The GOC has sanctioned a student optometrist who refused to provide a blood specimen in the course of an investigation into whether he was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Birmingham-based, Waqaus Ali, (GOC registration SO-15952) received a three-month suspension order from the optical regulator.
A fitness to practise committee found that there was no evidence of deep-seated personality or attitudinal problems and there had been no repetition of the behaviour since the incident.
The optical regulator was satisfied that a period of suspension was sufficient to address both public protection and public interest concerns.
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.”