The General Optical Council (GOC) has this week published its new Standards for Optical Businesses, which will come into effect on 1 October.
Prior to publication, the new standards have been revised following an analysis of the feedback that the regulator received during the consultation stages.
Head of standards and CET at the GOC, Marcus Dye, explained that the new standards will replace the current Code of Conduct for Businesses, setting out the regulator’s expectations of business registrants more clearly. “They have been updated to maintain consistency with the Standards of Practice for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians and will ensure patient safety in a fast-changing landscape faced with new technology, an ageing population and expanding scopes of practice,” he added.
Through the consultation, the GOC received 351 unique responses. It also held a series of focus groups with patients and registrants, as well as meetings with professional bodies and employers.
Having shared a draft of the new standards earlier this year, the GOC confirmed that it has since made some changes to reflect stakeholder feedback to ensure that the standards are “proportionate and reflect the right balance of professional responsibilities between businesses and the staff that work for them.” It also made amends so that the they are flexible enough to be applied across all four nations.
Commenting on the new standards, Mr Dye said that the GOC encourages all businesses to comply with the standards “regardless of whether they currently have to register with us because they represent good practice.”
He said that the GOC will continue to push for legislative reform to require all businesses carrying out restricted functions to register with the GOC. “This would create a level playing field for all businesses and as the professions move into more clinical areas, it is becoming increasingly important that regulation is in place to ensure all businesses are registered,” Mr Dye explained.
Speaking about the publication of the standards, AOP policy director, Tony Stafford, highlighted that the new business standards are important for all the AOP’s members.
“Those who own or manage registered businesses need the standards to be clear and reasonable so they can comply without unnecessary costs. And our members who work as staff or locums will want to know how the new rules will affect their own obligations to the GOC,” he said.
Mr Stafford explained that when the GOC consulted on the draft of its business standards last year, the AOP argued that the standards needed a lot of changes. Reflecting on the final standards, he said: “We’re pleased that the GOC has acted on our suggestions. The final version of the standards is clearer, and avoids putting unnecessary new burdens on businesses.”
Mr Stafford added: “We also said that the GOC should do more to explain how it will use the new standards. And the GOC has confirmed it will publish guidance about that before the standards come into force in October. We will of course offer AOP members pragmatic guidance and support to help them understand and comply with the standards.”
The new Standards for Optical Businesses are on the GOC website.