GOC meets all 18 Standards of Good Regulation

For the first time since 2014, the General Optical Council has met all Standards of Good Regulation set by the Professional Standards Authority

GOC desk

The General Optical Council (GOC) chief executive has described the latest Professional Standards Authority (PSA) report on the regulator’s performance as “a significant step in our ambition to become a world-class regulator.”

For the first time in close to a decade, the GOC met all 18 Standards of Good Regulation – including the standard relating to the timeliness of fitness to practise investigations, which the regulator has traditionally struggled to attain.

GOC chief executive and registrar, Leonie Milliner, shared that she is “delighted” with the performance of the regulator in the October 2021 to December 2022 PSA performance report.

“The GOC meeting all the PSA’s Standards for Good Regulation is a significant step in our ambition to become a world-class regulator and we will continue to build on this positive performance,” she highlighted.

“The report recognises high standards across all areas of our work including our regulatory operations, registration processes, in upholding high standards in education, policy and professional standards, in our communications functions, and of course in the vital area of corporate governance,” Milliner added.

GOC chair of council, Dr Anne Wright, shared that the PSA review recognises the significant progress of the GOC in improving the timeliness of fitness to practise cases.

“This progress could not have been achieved without the substantial commitment and energy of GOC staff and members, and I am glad that we can celebrate this success collectively,” she said.

Head of the Optical Consumer Complaints Society (OCCS), Jennie Jones, acknowledged the dedication of the GOC team in achieving the timely resolution of fitness to practise complaints.

“Our congratulations to all at the GOC for the many years of hard work to secure this breakthrough,” she said.

Jones noted that the OCCS has worked alongside the GOC to ensure that only the most appropriate fitness to practise complaints enter the system to begin with.

“What this means is that the GOC fitness to practise teams are able to work with greater efficiency and focus exclusively on complaints that do involve allegations of impaired fitness to practice,” she said.

Cassandra Dighton, AOP head of professional discipline, told OT: “The General Optical Council has made improvements in its processes in the past year, which has resulted in the PSA’s conclusion that it has met all Standards of Good Regulation. However, it is clear that there are significant problems with the way in which the regulator conducts its work, and the AOP continues to urge the GOC not to become complacent.”

When she commented on the PSA report last year, Dighton highlighted her concern regarding several cases that had been under investigation for years.

“Sadly, a year on, the GOC has still failed to progress all of the matters I referred to. One member is still waiting to be served all the evidence against him three years after an investigation was opened and another has been waiting for four years,” Dighton shared.

“This is clearly unacceptable; not only do witnesses’ memories deteriorate with the passage of time which puts fair proceedings at risk, the impact of delays on registrants’ mental health and wellbeing is well recognised,” she said.

Dighton highlighted that, aside from the timeliness of cases, there were additional issues that needed to be addressed.

“The AOP’s professional discipline team regularly defends members against allegations that the GOC’s own evidence does not support and simply should not have been drafted, and we have seen GOC expert reports that produce evidence outside of the relevant expert’s area of expertise. In addition to this, GOC advocates have misinterpreted GOC guidance before fitness to practise committees, which, if uncorrected, had the potential to damage the registrant’s case. Other members have been financially and emotionally affected by the GOC’s chaotic approach to members removed from the register due to a shortfall in CPD,” she said.

“I have raised all these issues with the GOC, and the AOP will continue to work wherever possible with the regulator to support the improvements that really are needed urgently,” Dighton concluded.