GOC publishes statement on verification of contact lens specifications

Following a consultation last year, the statement has been updated to clarify the GOC’s position in relation to the requirements for verifying copies of contact lens specifications

A woman’s hand is displayed close up with a contact lens resting on her forefinger
Pixabay/Martin Slavoljubovski

The General Optical Council (GOC) has published a new position statement on the verification of contact lens specifications.

The statement, formed following a consultation held between 29 August and 23 October 2023, outlines the GOC’s position that it does not intend to pursue sellers who do not comply with contact lens specification verification requirements in relation to copies, when specific conditions are met.

Section 27 of the Opticians Act 1989 specifies that an individual must have an in-date contact lens specification which has been issued following a fitting in order to be supplied with contact lenses.

Where the original specification is not provided, and the sale is being carried out under the general direction of a GOC registrant or registered medical practitioner, the Act requires a copy of the specification to be verified with the person who originally provided it.

The new position statement from the GOC states that it does not “consider that there is sufficient evidence of risk of harm to the public, or a wider public interest, in prosecuting sellers who do not verify a copy of a contact lens specification provided that the copy of the specification is in-date (i.e. has not passed its expiry date); clear; does not contain any obvious errors; and has not obviously been tampered with.”

Steve Brooker, GOC director of regulatory strategy, commented: “We hope the new statement clarifies our position in relation to what we consider to be an outdated requirement for copies of contact lens specifications, and lessens the inconvenience that original prescribers sometimes face when they have to verify copy specifications, creating delays that are passed on to patients as costs.”

Following the 2023 consultation, several changes were made to the statement to provide definition regarding what is meant by in-date and clarifying where verification is still required.

Additional changes also covered the position in relation to zero-powered contact lenses.

Based on consultation feedback, the statement also no longer includes a definition of aftercare.

Brooker explained: “Opinion was more divided on our definition of aftercare, with professional bodies informing us that they already had detailed guidance on this issue.”

After consideration, it was decided that the Standards of Practice for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians could be relied on, along with any other relevant guidance, should any fitness to practise cases arise on this matter.

“None of the points raised in the consultation convinced us that the 2006 statement on sale and supply of optical appliances was still required or that there would be any unintended consequences if it was withdrawn, so this will be removed,” Brooker said.

Commenting on the new statement from the GOC, Henry Leonard, head of clinical and regulatory at the AOP, said: “This reflects changes in the way consumers purchase contact lenses and means that suppliers are less likely to need to contact the prescribing practice when they are presented with a copy of (rather than an original) contact lens specification.”

“Practitioners are still expected to co-operate with all requests for verification, but these changes should reduce the burden on optometry practices, whilst making it clear that suppliers must still take reasonable steps to protect patients from coming to harm through inappropriate supply of contact lenses,” he added.