Three insights from the GOC

A registrant fee uplift and GOC equality, diversity and inclusion data were among topics covered at the latest meeting of the optical regulator

SP GOC meeting

The latest meeting of the General Optical Council (GOC) was held through a video call on December 7. Below, OT presents a selection of the topics covered during the final optical regulator meeting of 2022.

1 The GOC has set a 5.6% uplift to its renewal fee – or £20 per year

The GOC has set its fees for the coming year, with a £20 increase in the fee for fully qualified and body corporate registrants, from an annual fee of £360 to £380.

There is also a £20 increase in the discount for low-income registrants, from a £100 discount to a £120 discount. The student renewal fee and the fee for application for initial registration or restoration to the register remains the same.

At the meeting in December, GOC chief executive, Leonie Milliner, highlighted that registrant fees have not increased for the past three years.

The uplift comes at a time of economic and political volatility, she added.

“We have been cautious in our anticipated expenditure and income next year. We recognise that this proposed increase represents an additional cost to registrants,” she said.

Council member, Dr Josie Forte, noted her appreciation for the work done by the GOC to keep the fee rise as limited as possible.

“What we have here is a well thought out, very moderate way forward that supports people on the lowest incomes while being mindful of employers who are paying the vast majority of fees,” she said.

2 The GOC has made progress on EDI indicators but certain groups continue to be over-represented within FTP cases

The GOC’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Annual report was presented at the meeting by GOC EDI manager, John Duncan.

EDI progress in 2022 highlighted within the report include enhanced collection of registrant and complainant data, the introduction of an anti-racism statement and anti-racism staff group and narrowing of the gender pay gap within the GOC.

The median gender pay gap among GOC staff is now just 1.3% (in favour of males).

The GOC is also undertaking work to further embed EDI principles into recruitment and management processes.

Turning to fitness to practise (FTP) processes, the report reveals that 46% of registrants facing an FTP investigation were Asian or British Asian. This group is over-represented in FTP cases (34% of people on the GOC register are Asian or British Asian).

The statistic also represents an increase since last year, when the proportion of Asian or British Asian registrants facing investigation was broadly in line with their registrant profile.

In 2022, there were more men who faced FTP investigations than women – making up 58% and 41% of investigations respectively.

An ethnic disparity between what happens at the case examiner stage has narrowed between 2021 and 2022.

In 2021, 36% of Asian or British Asian registrants facing an investigation were referred to the FTP committee, compared to 28% of white registrants. In 2022, the figure was 35% for both ethnic groups.

It is important to consider that the total number of registrants facing FTP cases is small, meaning that statistics can fluctuate from year to year.

GOC council member, Roshni Samra, welcomed the progress that the regulator has made on EDI.

“It is lovely to see and it is good to celebrate these things. Certainly, in a lot of workplaces it is sadly a tick-box exercise, but we are actively working on this,” she said.

Samra would like to see further work unravelling why men are represented more than women in FTP cases, and why Asian and British Asian registrants are over-represented in FTP cases.

“We are not closer to understanding to why that is,” she said.

Samra would also like to see research exploring why certain groups do not engage with the GOC recruitment process.

3 An ASA decision has prompted an increase of inquiries to the GOC about visual stress and dyslexia

GOC meeting papers outlined a decision by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in September relating to an optometry practice’s claims about visual stress and dyslexia.

The decision found that claims on the practice’s website were likely to be interpreted by consumers as saying that the business could provide tests that formally diagnose dyslexia.

The ruling also found that the advertising could lead consumers to believe that they offered glasses that treated or reduced the impact of dyslexia. The practice was instructed not to publish the advertisement again in the form complained about.

The GOC meeting papers noted that the ASA case prompted an increase in inquiries to the regulator about marketing claims by other optical businesses.

“We will continue to encourage optical businesses to review their marketing
claims and related commercial practices against the ASA ruling,” the GOC papers state.

The regulator added that, where the threshold for action is met, the GOC may investigate concerns as a fitness to practise matter.

“We will keep our position under active review in response to developments.”

The AOP has published guidance on making claims about dyslexia and visual stress on its website.