Doing the right thing in difficult situations

GOC head of standards and CET, Marcus Dye, on the difficulties for registrants to raise concerns for fear of the consequences

People talking

The General Optical Council’s (GOC’s) Standards of Practice for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians and Standards for Optical Businesses make it clear that we expect registrants to raise concerns where there is a risk to patient or public safety. Registrants may witness a range of incidents that raise concerns within the workplace, but it is important to remember that not all will qualify as a ‘whistleblowing’ concern. Matters relating to personal grievances, disciplinary matters, contractual disputes or other aspects of the working relationship should be managed informally or formally through the organisation’s grievance policy.

However, you may sometimes need to whistleblow to an official organisation. Whistleblowing is defined as raising a concern about wrong-doing in the public interest. The individual raising the concern must believe that it shows past, present or likely future wrongdoing in one or more of the following categories: 1) that a criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed; 2) that a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with a legal obligation – for example holding insurance; 3) that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur; 4) that the health or safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered – for example unreasonable hours or dangerous work methods; or 5) that information showing one or more of these criteria has been, is being or is likely to be deliberately concealed.

The GOC is an official body to whom any whistleblowing concerns can be raised, and we will take these concerns very seriously

 

Examples that you may encounter in practice could be individuals or businesses practising illegally, concerns about the fitness to practise of a colleague or your employer, or failings by an undergraduate education provider or CET provider.

The GOC is an official body to whom any whistleblowing concerns can be raised, and we will take these concerns very seriously. In a recent fitness to practise case against Boots Opticians, a business registrant, we imposed our maximum fine of £50,000 for failing to have proper processes in place for managing whistleblowing concerns.

Speaking out

Registrants should refer to our raising concerns guidance, which is available at on our website. This includes guidance for registrants who do not feel able to raise concerns with their employer or do not feel that their concerns have been taken sufficiently seriously.

Firstly, if a registrant has concerns about misconduct related to matters at work including criminal offences, miscarriages of justice, breaches of legal obligations, patient health and safety or the covering up of such issues, we advise that in the first instance they raise the issue internally. We recommend registrants speak to their line manager, area/senior manager, HR, or report the issue via their employer’s whistleblowing policy.

If you experience any negative consequences as a result of raising concerns, we would encourage you to inform the GOC

 

Secondly, registrants should wait for the organisation to respond to their concern before taking any further action. If registrants are not satisfied with the response or lack of response from their organisation, then we advise them to make the disclosure directly to us. This also applies to individuals who feel unable to raise their concern within their organisation.

The GOC acknowledges that it is sometimes difficult for registrants to raise concerns for fear of the consequences. If you experience any negative consequences as a result of raising concerns, we would encourage you to inform the GOC.

Read the GOC’s guidance on raising concerns on its website.

Marcus Dye is the GOC’s head of standards and CET.
Image credit: Getty/Malte Mueller