GOC focuses on education

The GOC’s anticipated review of education will go out to the profession in December, the council heard

21 Nov 2016 by Olivia Wannan

Education was the watchword at the General Optical Council (GOC) meeting (16 November, London).

The GOC’s upcoming review of optometric education was a theme that ran through much of the business on the agenda. The regulator is planning to release a call for evidence from the profession in December, which will be open for 12 weeks.

A draft consultation document, which will be reviewed following council members’ feedback, was circulated to council members.

Council chair, Gareth Hadley, highlighted the importance of keeping every option on the table, adding: “We want open questions to enable people to dive into there. We wouldn’t want to close down anything by the way we design our consultation.”

The importance of communication and interaction skills for the profession’s likely future work and the need to engage newly registered optometrists in the review were also raised in the discussion.

Fellow council member, Helen Tilley, emphasised that: “Lots of people are keen to get up to the new level [of proficiency]. We need to support people already in the profession to extend their skills as well.”

Council member, Peter Douglas, added: “We need a good think about our resources and whether we have the right and sufficient ones for us to do the work we need to.”

From free to fee 

Newly registered optometrists and dispensing opticians will now have to pay an additional application fee to join the GOC register.

In 2017–18, the transfer from the register of student optometrists and dispensing opticians to the full register will cost £35, and an initial application to the register will cost £70. These payments are on top of the standard fees.

These charges “reflect the specific costs involved in verifying qualifications and supporting documentation,” the GOC wrote in its proposal document, which was approved by the council.

Otherwise, the GOC described the increases as “very moderate.” The annual fee for a fully qualified optometrist will rise £10 to £350 in 2017–18, with a £20 discount for prompt payments.

Low-income earner annual fees, for those paid under £12,000 the previous year, will be subject to the same £10 increase and will rise to £220, while student application and renewal fees will rise by £5 to £30. The increases reflect inflation, the GOC proposal outlined.

Optometrists who complete a specialty in the next financial year will receive a mild drop in their entry fee, which will change from £40 in 2016–17 to £35 in 2018–19.

Who likes the GOC? 

The results from two surveys, one of registrants and the other of stakeholders, were presented at the meeting.

The registrant survey, which comprised more than 4000 online responses, found that while many registrants had positive feedback on the GOC, its representation as a “big, scary” organisation persisted.

On the topic of demonstrating the GOC’s value for money, council member, Scott Mackie, emphasised that: “We’ve got to be better at telling people what we do.”

The council was concerned at the 40% of respondents who said they did not feeling comfortable raising concerns with their employer and the 45% who would not feel confident highlighting an issue to the GOC. The issue would inform the GOC’s ongoing work programme, the council heard.

The stakeholder survey had more positive results for the GOC, with many rating the organisation highly. One key piece of feedback was the slow pace of GOC processes, which council members highlighted.

The stakeholders interviewed were also very supportive of the GOC’s review of education.

Following feedback, the updated duty of candour guidance will be published, while the duty of consent will require further consultation.

The GOC’s draft Strategic Plan will also be put out for consultation.

Discussing the Department of Health’s regulator reform, GOC chief executive and registrar, Samantha Peters, also told council members that the timeframe for the next steps of this work remained unclear.

The next GOC meeting will be held on 22 February, 2017.

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