The challenges of a growing appetite for online sales of contact lens and the approval of new pay increases were on the agenda at the first General Optical Council (GOC) meeting of the year.
A total of 20 GOC fees were reviewed, based on benchmarking analysis against similar roles and recommendations by the GOC’s rumuneration committee, at the 10 February meeting. The largest pay increases under the review were for the GOC CET chair, whose annual fee rose from £6000 to £16,016 – a 167% jump.
The annual payment for the council chair position, currently held by Gareth Hadley, who excused himself from the discussion, will also get a 42% rise from £40,000 to £56,693.
Council member Rosie Glazebrook suggested the chair’s large pay rise might look unfair if GOC staff did not appear to be getting the same treatment. She added: “I think it’s going to be quite complicated to defend.”
The council was told GOC employees had undergone salary benchmarking in previous years. The council approved the remuneration rises, except the decreased investigation committee fees as a later introduction will be considered.
As the workload has dropped, the remuneration committee is recommending investigations committee members’ payments to be cut almost in half, from £600 to £308.
Because the GOC is a registered charity, changes to council members’ remuneration must be submitted to the Charity Commission for approval. Council and senior council members are set to receive a 4% and 3% pay rise respectively.
In November, the council approved a 3.2% registration fee rise, from £310 to £320.
The online market
A contact lens-wearer survey was presented to the council, highlighting a growing appetite for online sales and the risks that went with such purchases.
The two-part survey was conducted by BMG last October. Trends from the more than 2000-strong study of contact lens wearers highlighted that this group tended to be younger, female, higher-earning, urban professionals, when compared to the general population. They were also more likely to say they “always” buy online.
A key finding was that 10% of those surveyed who bought contact lenses in a pratice said they intended to shop online in future, indicating online sales of contact lens was a growing market.
A quarter of online shoppers said they did not have a copy of their contact lens specification. Online buyers were also less likely to have had a recent eye examination, or report receiving aftercare advice following their purchase.
The results could indicate, as online sales rise in future, that eye tests numbers and eye health awareness would decline. The council noted that awareness among the general public about the risks of buying contact lens without professional advice was low.
The future of education
At the meeting, council members showed their support for the GOC to accelerate an optometry education review into its 2016-17 programme of work.
Mr Hadley talked of the “signficant challenges in times of increasing patient need [alongside] a hospital service system that is cracking at the seams.”
The chair said the work “had gone beyond being nice to have to being essential.”
Registrar and chief executive, Samantha Peters, said work currently on the schedule would need to be removed for the review to be started in the coming year. She would return to the council with requests on which projects to delay in order to incorporate the new work and information on the risks of such a change.
It was noted the council’s requested change in strategy would also likely impact the proposed 2016-17 budget, which was approved on this basis.
Off the register
Half of the registrants who failed to meet their CET requirements have been in touch with the GOC.
A total of 424 registered optometrists, dispensing opticians, contact lens opticians and therapeutic optometrists did not achieve the 36 CET points required in the 2013-15 cycle. Of this total, 109 people have told the GOC of their plans to retire. Another 67 people have applied for the exceptional circumstances exemption and 46 have applied to dispute their CET record.
Council members’ concerns were raised about deregistered practitioners who choose to keep working. The council noted a list of those removed from the register was made publicly available but that a lack of information about registrants’ employment would likely prevent the GOC from contacting a deregistered practitioner’s employer directly.
The success of the GOC’s move to its current Old Bailey premises in promoting staff communication was also raised by council members. The next council meeting is scheduled for 11 May.