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 in 2021.
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.
The GOC has suspended Glasgow-based optometrist, Uzma Afzal (GOC registration 01-30168) for six months for failing to carry out adequate sight tests and maintain adequate records as well as falsifying records.
A GOC fitness to practise decision noted that the case involved two incidents of dishonesty.
The committee was satisfied that in the six to seven years since the events occurred, Afzal had remedied her clinical shortcomings. She had completed more than the minimum CET.
In relation to dishonesty, the committee was not satisfied that Afzal had demonstrated sufficient insight into her misconduct – however, the committee believed she was capable of developing full insight over time.
The decision noted testimonials that emphasised the registrant’s dedication, work ethic, reliability and, in their experience, her honesty.
“The committee concluded that a period of suspension was the appropriate sanction in this case,” the decision highlighted.
The GOC has suspended London-based optometrist, Ajay Patel (GOC registration 01-17351) from its register for 12 months after he failed to refer a patient for appropriate treatment.
A GOC fitness to practise committee also found he did not communicate effectively with the patient and failed to maintain adequate records.
The committee determined that Patel’s clinical failings were remediable. He had prepared a development plan to address deficiencies in his practice and enhanced his clinical knowledge through relevant CET training.
The committee found that the risk of repetition in relation to the clinical aspects of Patel’s conduct was low.
The decision stated that the dishonesty in the case was not a single incident, and there were elements of pre-meditation and an attempt to minimise past wrong doing.
However, the committee decided that Patel had a significant level of insight into his dishonesty and the risk of repetition was low.
In considering the appropriate sanction, the committee recognised the value of potentially retaining the services of a competent practitioner.
“In all the circumstances, the committee decided that a suspension order would be sufficient,” the decision concluded.
London-based student optometrist, Lukshana Jeyaruban, (GOC registration SO-10760) has been suspended from the GOC register for a period of six months.
The sanction related to her submission of a dissertation in the knowledge that it had been drafted by another person.
A fitness to practise committee highlighted that her conduct was dishonest and amounted to plagiarism.
However, Jeyaruban had begun to develop insight into her conduct, there was no repetition of the behaviour and there was evidence that she was a previously good student.
The committee concluded that “a period of suspension was the appropriate and proportionate sanction and would satisfy the public interest.”
The GOC has erased dispensing optician Timothy Vanes (GOC registration D-3421) from its register.
The regulator determined that the Shropshire practitioner’s fitness to practise was impaired on the grounds of public protection and public interest.
The decision follows Vane’s conviction for making indecent images of a child and possessing extreme pornographic images of a person performing an act of intercourse with a live or dead unknown animal.
After police received information linking Vane’s business address to child pornography, a search warrant was executed and computer equipment was seized in May 2018.
In March 2020, Vane was sentenced to a 24-month community order and required to undertake 100 hours of unpaid community work as well as 35 days of rehabilitation activity.
The fitness to practise committee determined that the only appropriate sanction to protect patients and the public interest was erasure, noting that Vane had not engaged in the regulatory process.
The events that gave rise to the convictions took place between 2008 and 2017, and involved more than 6000 images.
“This was not a single incidence of misconduct… The committee were not satisfied that the registrant had any insight, beyond what was said at the time of sentencing, to persuade it that there was sufficient insight that suspension was appropriate,” the committee highlighted.
Optometrist, Rajendra Chopra, (GOC registration 01-17917) has been sanctioned by the GOC after failing to carry out an adequate sight test and make an appropriate referral.
A patient presented at Chopra’s practice complaining of black floaters and black dots that affected the vision in her left eye in August 2017.
After being issued with a prescription, the patient’s symptoms continued and she visited the practice again in September 2017.
Chopra did not conduct an eye examination but referred the patient to her GP, who arranged for her to be seen in secondary care.
After an appointment at an ophthalmology clinic in October 2017 the patient was diagnosed with a macular off retinal detachment and had surgery the following week.
Chopra altered clinical records for the patient’s appointments in August and September. He stated that a sight test had occurred on the second appointment when it had not.
The optical regulator found that his actions were inappropriate, misleading and dishonest.
The GOC fitness to practise decision highlighted that Chopra demonstrated “very limited” insight in respect of his clinical failings.
“It was not clear that he accepted his failing in not having carried out a dilated examination of Patient A’s eyes on the first appointment. Nor had he presented any persuasive evidence of attempts to address the shortcomings in his professional knowledge,” the committee noted.
The Liverpool-based practitioner was erased from the GOC register.
Sarah Morris (GOC registration D-16786), a dispensing optician based in Birmingham, has been suspended from the GOC register for 12 months.
Her suspension related to the processing of false refund transactions on several occasions.
Between 29 May 2018 and 20 June 2019, Morris credited seven false refund transactions to her personal bank card and her husband’s bank card.
A fitness to practise committee decision highlighted that Morris had “begun a journey towards remediation and is developing insight.”
While there was some risk of repetition, it was “not substantial.”
“In all the circumstances the committee decided that a 12-month suspension order was necessary and appropriate to protect the public, to mark the seriousness of the conduct, to protect the reputation of the profession, to maintain public confidence and to declare and uphold proper standards,” the decision highlighted.