“The sector has significantly evolved since the Act was originally passed”
Acting head of policy, strategy and co-production at the GOC, Marie Bunby, discusses, the call for evidence reviewing the Opticians Act
01 October 2022
Earlier this year, the General Optical Council (GOC) launched a unique call for evidence to ensure legislation and regulation are fit for the future.
If, as a result of the call for evidence, we consider changes to legislation or policy are necessary and can be evidenced, we will carry out further public and targeted stakeholder consultation on our proposals
Why conduct a call for evidence?The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is undertaking a review of all healthcare regulators’ legislation to ensure consistency between the powers it has to deliver its regulatory functions. These functions include registration, education, fitness to practise, standards and the overall governance and operating framework of the regulator.
We decided to use this opportunity to review the aspects of the Act that are unique to the practice of optometry and dispensing optics in the UK, so that we can discuss any potential areas for change with the DHSC as part of any updates to the Act.
The sector has significantly evolved since the Act was originally passed in 1989. This includes technological developments, such as remote care, and optometrists and dispensing opticians occupying different roles, such as enhanced clinical roles.
Although there have been various amendments to the Act since 1989, such as the introduction of continuing professional development, we need to ensure the Act develops to match these changes, whilst still protecting patients and the public.
We also want to ensure that the Act is fit for purpose and does not create unnecessary restrictions that limit the ability of our registrants to fully utilise their professional capability to the benefit of patients.
The call for evidence was open between March and July 2022, and we received over 350 responses, including from the public, patients, registrants, sector bodies and employers. Stakeholders provided feedback on GOC objectives for legislative reform; the protection of title, restricted activities, and registers; the regulation of businesses; testing of sight; the fitting of contact lenses; the sale and supply of optical appliances; and the delivery of remote care and technology.
While we do not envision any legislative reform to the Act for some years, we will use this intervening period to make sure we are prepared for when the time comes
The next steps
We have been collating and carefully analysing the responses to assess the impact of proposed changes, or of making no change, and considering whether there are gaps in evidence that would require further research.
In September, an update on the project with recommendations about initial proposals for additional work and an associated timetable was presented to our Council.
If, as a result of the call for evidence, we consider changes to legislation or policy are necessary and can be evidenced, we will carry out further public and targeted stakeholder consultation on our proposals.
Although we are leading engagement with stakeholders and the sector through the call for evidence, responsibility for agreeing changes to the Act lies with Parliament, in line with the DHSC’s regulation reform timetable.
While we do not envision any legislative reform to the Act for some years, we will use this intervening period to make sure we are prepared for when the time comes. And, of course, we will make the most of our current legislation.
We would like to thank everyone who has taken part in this process so far and look forward to working together to ensure the Act is fit for purpose to protect the public.