Rating the regulator: GOC meets 17 of 18 Standards for Good Regulation

The Professional Standard Authority has published its annual assessment of the optical regulator’s performance

GOC reception

The General Optical Council (GOC) has met 17 of the 18 Standards for Good Regulation set by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA).

The optical regulator did not satisfy Standard 15, as a result of the time it takes to conclude fitness to practise cases.

However, the PSA noted that the GOC has made significant progress in implementing its improvement plan.

GOC chief executive and registrar, Leonie Milliner, acknowledged that the regulator needs to improve the timeliness of its fitness to practise cases.

“We will continue to work to meet this standard. However, we have made tremendous progress in reducing the number of new fitness to practise cases being opened from almost 60% to less than 25% by filtering out more complaints that could not result in a decision of impairment,” she said.

She added that the GOC has reduced the number of cases that are more than a year old from 117 in the previous reporting period to 72.

“Our fitness to practise function is one of the main ways we protect the public and we remain committed to meeting this standard and building upon the positive work we've completed so far,” Milliner emphasised.

Efforts to improve fitness to practise waiting times were acknowledged at the latest GOC meeting (16 March).

Optometrist and GOC council member, Dr Josie Forte, highlighted that lengthy waiting times have been a reoccurring issue during the five years she has served on the GOC.

She highlighted improvements made by the optical regulator.

“It is definitely worth recognising. Those very long cases do create a lot of anxiety for the registrants concerned,” Forte said.

Head of professional discipline at the AOP, Cassandra Dighton, shared that although there have been some areas of improvement in the optical regulator’s approach, it was disappointing to see that the GOC had not met the fitness to practise timeliness standard.

“Whist we note the PSA reports that the GOC has significantly reduced the end-to-end timeliness measure this year and has brought down the number of open cases in the system, the age of some of the GOC’s cases and delays in its handling of fitness to practice proceedings is out of step with other regulators,” Dighton emphasised.

She noted that General Medical Council cases are expected to be concluded within 12 months of a referral.

“Some of our members are still facing proceedings seven years after being notified of an investigation, and cases that are two to three years old are not uncommon; these members have to shoulder the stress and anxiety that a hearing will bring for far longer than is necessary,” Dighton said.

The GOC has made internal changes to address the issue and it is hoped that further improvements will be made in the near future, Dighton added.

“We continue to work with the GOC in all areas of fitness to practise work and will continue to do all we can to represent our members interests in these matters,” she said.