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Opchat Magazine Professional Matters PagesProfessional Matters News, January to March 2019

Optometry/Dispensing

For Ophthalmology Section Page Click Here.

New measure for eye care services in Wales
Letter published by CQC on changes in fees for registered providers
ABDO issues Brexit Guidelines
A Regular request we receive at My Local optician by email or phone by people searching for Home Visit practices
OPTICS out in the cold again as Government freezes GOS fees for 4th year running.
FODO backs challenge to non-evidence based rationing of cataract care.
GOC consults on draft guidance: disclosing confidential information
New College Council members welcomed at AGM
Latest publication on Scottish Vouchers and GOS
GOC Education Strategic Review gets domiciliary input
Changes to GOS forms processing in parts of England
New Independent practice guide from the AOP
GOC imposes financial penalty on Boots Opticians LTD
AOP Council invites applications from across the sector
Take part in GOC survey on risk in the optical professions
Lesley Longstone appointed as permanent GOC Chief Executive and Registrar
GOC suspends Hounslow based dispensing optician.
GOC News from Council 13 February 2019
OC updates "Making Accurate Claims in Wales"
AOI highlights concerns on eyecare in Ireland
Priority treatment for Welsh patients at risk of sight loss.
GOC Registrar stands down.
College announces AGM dates and publishes Annual Report.
AIO challenges need for additional training to offer enhanced services.
ABDO appeals to members to get involved.
FODO visits National Council for the Blind Ireland (NCBI)
Optometry Scotland - General Ophthalmic Services webinar
GOC suspends Yorkshire based dispensing optician
GOC erases Helensburgh based optometrist
GOC Business Standards consultation receives positive response from the optical sector
FODO members benefit from improved optical insurance and defence
Preparations for that "B" word
NHS Long Term Plan published
Last three months professional matters Oct-Dec 2018


New measure for eye care services in Wales

March 2019

Following concerns raised by ophthalmologists and the RNIB over hospital waiting times, the Minister for Health and Social Services in Wales asked a NHS-led group to review the problems facing patients on waiting lists.

This has resulted and a new measure from April 2019 which will require hospital eye services to have procedures in place to ensure patients receive their assessment or treatment by the most suitable person within a clinically appropriate time.

Poor eye health is a common and growing issue. Currently nearly 111,000 people in Wales are living with sight loss. This is estimated to increase by a third by 2030 and double by 2050.

Whilst current NHS targets for eye care services support new patients, this is often only the first part of what patients need. Regular reviews or treatment might be needed to make sure a patients’ sight improves or to reduce the risk of avoidable blindness.

Wales is the first UK nation to introduce a measure of this kind for eye care patients.

Letter published by CQC on changes in fees for registered providers

March 2019

Care Quality Commission (CQC) fees for registered providers 2019/20

I am writing to let you know that the changes to CQC fees have now been confirmed and are outlined on the fees consultation page of our website. This page also contains our response to the consultation and supporting information and guidance. This follows the public consultation between 25 October 2018 and 17 January 2019 on our proposals for the fees that we will charge providers of health and adult social care in England from 1 April 2019.

I would like to thank everyone who took part in the consultation for your valuable contributions, which were all taken into consideration.

The fees paid by providers enable us to fulfil our purpose of making sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care, and we encourage services to improve.

We will continue to make savings wherever possible. In 2015/16, we spent £223 million on our regulatory activities and have continued to drive down our costs so that our planned expenditure for 2019/20 is £208.3 million. We will continue to look carefully at our operating costs, and make careful investment so that we can offer the most efficient service for providers and continue to assure the public.

Following consideration of the consultation responses, we have made a number of decisions on our fees scheme for 2019/20. The decisions can be broken down into two themes. First, to complete our trajectory to full cost recovery for all sectors, as required by HM Treasury. By this we mean that our regulatory costs are paid for by provider fees, and no longer subsidised by grant-in-aid funding from the government. Second, to address fees for certain sectors where we needed to balance fees recovered with the cost of regulating those sectors.

The results of these decisions can be summarised as follows:

• We will increase fees for the community social care sector by £1.5 million as part of the final year of a four-year trajectory to full chargeable cost recovery.
• We will increase fees for the dental sector by £0.6 million to better align the cost of regulation with the fees collected.
• We will decrease fees for the residential social care sector by £0.8 million to better align the cost of regulation with the fees collected.

Examples of the fee changes that community social care, dental and residential social care providers can expect include:

• Community social care locations with 1 to 10 people using the service (representing 25% of the sector) will see their fee increase by no more than £86, with a fee ranging from £293 to £782.
• Dental providers with one location with 1 to 4 dental chairs (representing 78% of the sector) will see their fee increase by no more than £109, with a fee ranging from £598 to £946.
• Residential social care locations with 1 to 15 residents (representing 38% of the sector) will see their fee reduce by up to £40, with a fee ranging from £313 to £1,634.

Most NHS trusts and NHS GPs, whose overall size is similar to last year, will see a small change to their fees from April 2019 because of the changes we made to their fees structure last year. This is because each provider’s fee is calculated by looking at their size against the total size of the sector, both of which change year-on-year. However, this will not alter the total fees collected overall for these sectors.

Community social care providers will also be affected by the structural changes made last year, as well as the overall increase mentioned above. It is worth noting that 89% of community social care providers have seen reduced fees both in 2018/19 and in 2019/20 compared to the 2017/18 fee scheme following these structural changes.

For all other sectors, the fee scheme remains unchanged, which means a provider’s fee will remain the same as that for 2018/19, providing their registration remains unchanged.

Our fees represent around 0.16% of overall indicative turnover of the health and social care market.

You can use the fees calculator published on our website to help work out the annual fee for your service for 2019/20. You can also find guidance on how and when to pay your fees, including information on paying by instalment.

We would like to thank you for your continued support and involvement in working with us.

ABDO issues Brexit Guidelines

March 2019

The Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) has issued guidance to members on a range of topics relevant to the optical industry. The ABDO guidance focuses on the main factors that need considered in advance of us leaving the EU with or without a deal, including employment and VAT issues.

ABDO Policy and Public Affairs Officer Debbie McGill says, “We appreciate that Brexit and the impact it will have on us all is still unclear as the Government continues with its negotiations and preparations. We have put together guidance specifically for our members working in the optical industry, focussing on relevant topics to provide information and guidance where possible. We encourage members to monitor the links we have provided to individual organisations’ and governments’ websites for on-going up to date information.”

Members with questions, are advices to contact ABDO policy lead, Debbie McGill, dmcgill@abdolondon.org.uk, who will be able to help or guide them to the right resources. ABDOe will continue to monitor Brexit preparations and will circulate further guidance as it becomes available.

A Regular request we receive at My Local optician by email or phone by people searching for Home Visit practices

March 2019

"My mum lives in Meysey Hampton do you know of any opticians in that area who do home visits.

Her mobility and speech are reduced due to psp so she has trouble getting around.

Please let me know if you know of anyone."

A search on Mylocaloptician's "Find My Optician" Database for Home Visits only shows no providers in Cirencester. Can this possibly be true?

The site receives over 1000 visits each day from many looking for Home Visit Practices. The home visit page is the most read on the site.

The site like Opchat News is published by Primary Health Net managed by opticians and provides free entry to all registerd opticians.

What you should do:

First check if your practice appears in the app, then if you provide Home Visits, click the Home Visit Check Box and try again to see if your practice reappears.

If the address is not published or incorrect follow the advice here

OPTICS out in the cold again as Government freezes GOS fees for 4th year running.

March 2019

The Government has announced that GOS fees in England will be frozen for a fourth successive year, because of “the continuing tight economic climate facing the NHS”. Voucher values will also be frozen, meaning that NHS patients will lose out directly. CET fees and pre-registration grants will rise by 2%, compared to last year’s 1% uplift.

The OFNC has left the Department of Health and Social Care in no doubt that contractors will be angered by Ministers’ decision, especially in the light of the Government’s statements about the end of austerity and lifting the cap on NHS pay, and the recent announcements of extra funding for the NHS in England, particularly for primary care. The OFNC had bid for a 3% increase in GOS fees for mandatory services and 4% in additional services this year.

Stuart Burdett, OFNC Chair, said: “There is no fair way this further freeze can be justified. The costs of providing NHS care have increased every bit as fast in optics as in other areas. This set-back will further convince hardworking front-line clinicians that Ministers in England simply don’t value the vital services we provide to NHS patients.”

The OFNC made a very strong case for a reasonable increase in GOS fees this year, based on the efficiencies optical contractors continue to deliver to the NHS, the rising costs they face, and the extra money going into the NHS in England. We also argued for a significant rise in voucher values, an important patient benefit which is also suffering another real-terms cut.

OFNC has informed the Government that it cannot accept this unreasonable offer and that without an improved offer, a negotiated settlement is once again not possible.

It is likely that fees will once again have to be imposed in 2019/20.

The Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) is the community eye health equivalent of the British Medical Association (BMA) and British Dental Association (BDA) General Practice Committees and community pharmacists’ Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC). It is the recognised negotiating body for fees for the professions. Its members include the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO), the Association of Optometrists (AOP), the BMA, and the Federation of Opticians (FODO). The Chair and secretariat of the OFNC are provided on an alternating basis by the AOP and FODO.

Stuart Burdett became Chair of the OFNC in January 2019, replacing Trevor Warburton. The current membership of the OFNC is: Stuart Burdett (FODO – Chair of OFNC); Henrietta Alderman (CEO, AOP); Peter Hampson (AOP); Gordon Ilett (AOP); Tushar Majithia (AOP); David Hewlett (CEO, FODO); Alan Tinger (FODO); Richard Edwards (FODO); Sir Anthony Garrett (CEO, ABDO); Simon Longstaff (BMA); Professor Nagasubramanian (BMA); Tom Andrews (BMA). Secretary: Tony Stafford (AOP). Observers: Mike Fegan (Chair, LOCSU); Richard Whittington (COO, LOCSU).

Papers relating to the fee negotiations, including the OFNC’s bid to NHS England, have been published here

FODO backs challenge to non-evidence based rationing of cataract care.

March 2019

The Medical Technology Group, a coalition of manufacturers, research charities and patient groups, has published a report based on an analysis of 195 Clinical Commissioning Groups and their listings of procedures of ‘low clinical value’. The study found that 104 of the 195 CCGs surveyed (53%) still restrict access to cataract surgery.

Following the new NICE guideline, NHS England’s Transforming Elective Care programme and views on cataract rationing expressed by then Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt, FODO had hoped that such attempts at back-door rationing were a thing of the past. Today’s study suggests this may not be the case.

Commenting FODO’s David Hewlett said: “These allegations will be as upsetting to front-line clinicians as they are to patients. Anyone who believes that cataract operations do not give people back their sight has clearly not read the evidence. We thought that non evidence-based rationing based on simple ‘visual acuities’ or ‘one eye only’ policies had been finally put to rest following the then Secretary of State’s personal intervention and the new NICE guideline in 2017. This is clearly not the case.

“The drive for efficiency is important and understood but it should not be at the expense of denying NHS patients the essential eyecare they need. Cataract surgery is readily available outside the NHS for those who can afford to pay, including a wider range of lens options. However this is not the way the NHS is supposed to treat vulnerable patients.
“The NHS urgently needs to expand capacity to meet need, not make patients suffer.”

GOC consults on draft guidance: disclosing confidential information

March 2019

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has today launched a consultation on new draft guidance on disclosing confidential information about patients.

The guidance will help GOC registrants to decide when they might need to override patient confidentiality in the public interest, for example by telling the DVLA (and potentially others) if a patient is not fit to drive due to inadequate eyesight.

Marcus Dye, GOC Head of Standards and CET, said: “Our standards make clear that practitioners should promptly raise concerns about their patients if in their professional judgement patient or public safety might be at risk.Some registrants have requested additional guidance on how to apply this and in particular how to consider this alongside the professional requirement of maintaining confidentiality.

" This guidance will provide more clarity about our expectations and will help registrants in their decision-making. Registrants will still need to use their professional judgement but we hope the guidance will be a useful tool to help them make better decisions.

“It is important to remember too that the guidance is only in draft form. I encourage registrants, patients and other stakeholders to let us know their thoughts during the consultation period so we can consider any changes that may be appropriate before we publish a final version.”

The consultation will be open for three months and closes on 13 June 2019.

You can read and respond to it on the GOC Consultation Hub at here

New College Council members welcomed at AGM

March 2019

The College of Optometrists welcomed seven new Council members at its AGM, held during the College’s annual conference, Optometry Tomorrow 2019, in Birmingham 24-25 February.

College President, Professor Edward Mallen MCOptom, said “I would like to offer a warm welcome to our new Council members. Our Council takes pride in ensuring that we all remain true to our principles and accountable to our members, so it’s very important we have ambassadors who are actively engaged in the College and rooted in the profession. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all the outgoing Council members for their work helping to shape the future direction of the College and the profession.”

The new Council members are Kyla Black MCOptom (East Midlands), Shane Abbas Bhimani MCOptom Prof Cert Glauc DipTp(IP) (London), Nitika Sondhi MCOptom (London), Matt Roney MCOptom (North West), Kathryn Trimmer MCOptom DipTp(IP) (Scotland), Jodie Wearne MCOptom (South West) and Eddie Pigott MCOptom (South East).

New Council member, Matt Roney MCOptom said; “I am delighted to have been given this opportunity to represent fellow optometrists working across the North West, and am looking forward to sharing their feedback, views and ideas with the College. I am also looking forward to playing an active role in shaping the future of the College and its activities.”

Six College Council members retained their seats; Professor Peter Allen PhD FCOptom (Eastern), Andrew McGregor MCOptom (North East), Dr Gillian Ruddick PhD MCOptom Prof Cert Glauc DipTp(IP) (North West), Kiki Soteri MSc BSc(Hons) MCOptom DipTp(IP) Prof Cert Glauc (South West).

Sheetal Patel MCOptom DipTp(IP), previously the Council member for London, now represents the South East and Angharad Hobby MCOptom, previously the Council member for the South East, now represents Wales.

Six members of Council stepped down at the AGM; Jane Macnaughton FCOptom Prof Cert LV (East Midlands), Priya Jayaprakash MCOptom Prof Cert Glauc (London), Paul Carroll MCOptom (North West), Craig McCoy MCOptom DipTp(IP) (Scotland), Rasmeet Chadha MCOptom Prof Cert Glauc DipTp(IP) (South East), and Sarah Farrant MCOptom DipTPAS DipTp(IP) (South West).

Members can contact their regional Council member via the College website at: www.college-optometrists.org/council-member

Latest publication on Scottish Vouchers and GOS

March 2019

This letter advises of:

• amendments to legislation requiring the electronic submission of GOS(S)3/GOS(S)4 voucher payment claims on and after 1 April 2019, and written record requirements for repairs/replacements of optical appliances;

• amendments to eOphthalmics enabling GOS(S)3/GOS(S)4 voucher payment claims involving HC3 certificates to be submitted electronically on and after 1 April 2019;

• changes to GOS(S)1 claims from 1 April 2019 for sight impaired / severely sight impaired patients entitled to an annual primary eye examination;

• clarification on managing emergency eye presentations;

• clarification that hydroxychloroquine screening is not part of GOS.

Click here to read the full details

GOC Education Strategic Review gets domiciliary input

March 2019

The Optical Confederation Domiciliary Eye Care Committee (DEC) has reminded the GOC’s Education Strategic Review of the growing importance of working with vulnerable older adults in domiciliary and care home settings, and the need for graduates to continue to have direct ophthalmoscopy, retinoscopy, manual refraction techniques training and good communications skills for this key area of practice.

The DEC calls for part of undergraduates’ placement programmes in future to be spent in domiciliary and care home practice.

Changes to GOS forms processing in parts of England

March 2019

Primary Care Support England (PCSE) is going to make changes in how GOS forms are processed in certain areas next week when they transfer services currently delivered by ACE in Clacton to PCSE’s strategic site in Leeds. 

Areas affected are Essex, York, Somerset, Beds/Luton, Rotherham/Barnsley, Sheffield, Herts, Doncaster.

ACE will process all GOS claims received by the March/April 2019 cut-off dates. After this, the service will transfer to PCSE’s Ophthalmic Payments team in Leeds.

PSCE will be writing to all contractors in the above areas to advise them of the change.   

In addition, for contractors in Somerset, GOS1s will no longer be processed individually after the March cut off dates. Instead they will be processed in bulk and appear as a total amount of claims paid on statements. This will bring Somerset contractors into line with the rest of England.

Other than this change for Somerset, contractors will not be required to do anything differently. 

There will be no changes to the claim form submission or payment dates.

FODO’s Ann Blackmore said: “We do not like form batching and processing any more than contractors do as it makes individual claims reconciliation more difficult and makes more work for practices. However, we are assured it is only temporary and a transition step on the way to e-GOS for everyone. 

Now that the past problems are almost behind us we look forward to engaging with NHS England and PSCE soon on this next phase. We hope to be able to share with members soon what the shared vision of good will look like both during and after the transition to e-GOS.”   
               

New Independent practice guide from the AOP

March 2019

Indy Practice Guide
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has launched a new guide for optical professionals on setting up an independent practice.

Split into 11 easy to digest chapters the guide, which has been created with the support of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO), covers the considerations and practicalities of establishing a new practice, taking over an existing practice or becoming a partner.

Dr Peter Hampson, the AOP’s Clinical Director and independent practice owner, said that he believed the guide would be an indispensable resource.


He commented: “I know from experience that setting up your own practice can be daunting. The AOP’s Independent practice guide aims to make the process as understandable and accessible as possible, giving an honest assessment of the risks, benefits and disadvantages of each option. We’ve also signposted further resources and reading where useful. I hope it will be something that practitioners return to time and time again during their journey.”

Topics covered by the guide include; finding the right practice or location and finance options, recruiting and rewarding staff, purchasing equipment, and conforming to tax and data protection requirements.

Created by the AOP’s expert legal, financial and clinical teams, the guide gives a balanced view of practitioners’ options, including the pros and cons, and common pitfalls.

Wendy Steele, the AOP’s Commercial Director, said the publication aimed to fulfil an unmet need within the Association’s membership. Ms Steele explained: “We know that optical professionals, be they optometrists or dispensing opticians, are often highly ambitious both in their clinical practice and business ideas. However, while many will have the best clinical knowledge available, it can be a struggle to find comprehensive guidance on the business aspects. This guide brings together a variety of considerations to provide a straight-forward easy to read overview for those looking to set up an independent practice, or who are simply exploring their options.”

The Independent practice guide can be viewed or downloaded online. It supports the Association’s existing business resources for members.

GOC imposes financial penalty on Boots Opticians LTD

March 2019

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to impose the maximum financial penalty of £50,000 on Boots Opticians Professional Services LTD.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found their fitness to carry on business impaired for failing to appropriately manage protected disclosures made about clinical concerns within their business.

In making the decision, the Committee, chaired by Anne Johnstone, said:

“The Committee would have expected a business registrant which was cognisant of the importance of whistleblowing as an important mechanism for monitoring patient safety to have addressed the deficiencies in its policy and delivered appropriate training to all of its employees much earlier, and with a much greater sense of urgency, than had in fact occurred here.

“The Business Registrant’s approach to the matter consistently downplayed the significance of the failures that had occurred. This approach had been maintained right up to and during the conduct of this hearing. The Committee was not satisfied that the registrant had demonstrated full insight or remediation.

“Significant public interest disclosures had not been recognised as such and a potential safeguard for patient safety had thereby not operated as it should have done. The Committee regards this case as at the most serious end of the spectrum and has concluded that the maximum financial penalty order should be imposed.”

Boots Opticians Professional Services LTD has until 26 March 2019 to appeal the financial penalty.

The full determination is available here

AOP Council invites applications from across the sector

March 2019

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is asking members to put themselves forward for six designated AOP Council positions: Undergraduate Optometry Student, Pre-registration Optometrist, Newly-qualified Optometrist, Early Career Optometrist, Dispensing Optician and Franchisee/Joint Venture Partner, with applications opening on 4 March.

Representing a range of practice types and career stages, these designated Councillors ensure a variety of voices are heard at the Association. They sit alongside the AOP Council’s elected regional representatives and designated Councillors representing university lecturers and hospital optometrists.

Encouraging AOP members to apply, AOP Chief Executive Henrietta Alderman said: “Our Councillors help the AOP understand and provide for the needs of the profession. You do not need previous experience in a similar role to apply; as long as you are passionate about representing your peers we would like to hear from you.”

She continued: “Our current Councillors come from a range of backgrounds, practices and career stages and that’s what makes their involvement in AOP Council so valuable. By putting yourself forward you can help us tackle the big issues in optics, including how the profession should develop to meet the challenges of a fast-changing environment.”

Encouraging others to put themselves forward, outgoing appointed Councillor for early career optometrists, Fatima Nawaz, said: “Being on Council has given me the chance to voice my opinion and the opinions of my colleagues to influencers in the industry, and to make sure positive changes support everyday practice for all modes of optometrists.”

She added: “I have enjoyed spending over three years surrounded by likeminded individuals who want the best for our profession and who go above and beyond to ensure the changes made will benefit us all. I would encourage anyone who is passionate about supporting the profession to apply.”

The application period runs from 4 to 25 March. Following the application process, Councillors for each position will be selected by the AOP Appointments Committee, with results announced at the start of May. The first Council new Councillors will attend is on 12 June. More information on the role and how to apply can be found at www.aop.org.uk/Council.

Current AOP Councillors can be contacted in the AOP community forums.

Take part in GOC survey on risk in the optical professions

February 2019

You can now take part in a GOC funded research survey which aims to review risk in the optical professions. The online survey should take 10 minutes to complete and is open to all stakeholders, including GOC registrants, business owners and commissioners. The survey closes 6 March and can be accessed here.

Here is the survey link

Lesley Longstone appointed as permanent GOC Chief Executive and Registrar

February 2019

The General Optical Council (GOC) has announced that its interim Chief Executive and Registrar, Lesley Longstone, has been appointed to the role permanently.

Lesley, who joined the GOC on 17 September 2018, said, “I have really enjoyed my six months in the role and am delighted to be staying on a permanent basis. I will continue the work I have done over the last six months to deliver our regulatory functions and education reforms.

“It is also time for us to develop our next strategic plan, to take effect from 2020. I look forward to working with all my colleagues at the GOC and with our many partners and stakeholders to develop our plans for the future, ensuring that the GOC continues to maintain public safety in a fast-changing world.”

The GOC has also extended the contract of its Interim Director of Education, Dr Subo Shanmuganathan. Originally appointed on a contract until June 2019, Subo will remain at the GOC until at least March 2020, leading the Education Strategic Review.

GOC Chair Gareth Hadley added, “In Lesley’s first six months in the role she has made an extremely positive impact. I am delighted that she has accepted our offer to take on the role permanently and I know that her skills and expertise will ensure that we are well equipped to meet the challenges of the future.

“Subo is an educational expert who will ensure that we get our Education Strategic Review right. It is fantastic that we have her on board for another year, as part of a strong Senior Management Team committed to patient safety.”

GOC suspends Hounslow based dispensing optician.

February 2019

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Jatinder Bhamra, a dispensing optician based in Heston, Hounslow from its register for a period of nine months.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found her fitness to practise impaired by reason of misconduct relating to the Registrant adding points to her personal Boots Advantage Card and using the points to make purchases.

In making the decision, the Committee, chaired by Anne Johnstone, said: “Dishonesty is always a serious matter and in this case the Registrant occupied a position of particular trust. The Registrant took advantage of her position to commit the acts of dishonesty which the Committee had found proved. “Therefore, the Committee concluded the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

“The Committee was satisfied that the Registrant has some insight and does not pose a significant risk of repeating behaviour. The Committee concluded that a significant period of suspension would be sufficient in this particular case to maintain the public interest.”

Ms Bhamra has until 27 February 2019 to appeal her suspension.

GOC News from Council 13 February 2019

February 2019

Business Standards

Council approved publication of the new Standards for Optical Businesses, following the amendment to the standards to address feedback received from stakeholders during the consultation.

The new Standards for Optical Businesses make clearer GOC expectations of business registrants and are necessary to reflect changes in optical practice, recommendations from recent health enquiries, emerging technologies and the increased prevalence of multidisciplinary working.

Council reflected on the work GOC has done to address points raised by patients, practitioners and businesses during the consultation including requests to make the language in the standards more specific and questions in relation to whether the standards applied to online businesses. GOC has addressed these concerns by rewording some standards to ensure that they can be achieved in a variety of business settings and where possible standards have been made more specific, although in some areas flexibility is required to allow businesses to use their judgement when applying the standards to their particular circumstances.

The consultation received responses from a wide range of stakeholders.

Of the 351 unique responses received to the survey, 87 per cent were from registrants and the public, while the remaining 13 per cent were from organisations, including registered optical businesses, non-registered optical businesses and optical representative bodies and associations. Independent research agency, Pye Tait Consulting, conducted the analysis of the responses and carried out interviews and focus groups with patients, registrants and optical businesses.

Analysis of the consultation findings show high approval levels from respondents. Key results from the survey undertaken as part of the consultation included 70 per cent of respondents agreeing that the standards can be applied by and to different types of optical businesses and a further 81 per cent of respondents agreeing that the GOC’s expectations of optical businesses are clear.

Many respondents also reported that the draft proposals reflect ‘what businesses do anyway.’

Feedback from patients also highlighted the importance of business standards, with 84 per cent of patients interviewed saying they would rather ‘use an optical business that meets a certain set of standards, than one that does not’.

The GOC will be undertaking a range of activities to promote the benefits of business registration and will also be pursuing legislative reform to ensure that all businesses carrying out restricted functions are required to register with the GOC.

The GOC want to create a more level playing field for all optical businesses and give both patients and practitioners assurance that all businesses are regulated. Currently only limited companies operating as optical businesses which use protected titles such as optometrist or optician, must register with the GOC.

The new Standards for Optical Businesses will be published in April 2019. The new standards will then come into force in October 2019.

The Budget and Business Plan

Council approved the budget and business plan for 2019/20. The GOC will focus on five key projects:

Education Strategic Review

Council await the findings of the consultation into draft Standards for education providers and draft learning outcomes for students. The GOC is encouraging all stakeholders to respond to the consultation before it closes on the 25 February 2019. The consultation is hosted on the GOC’s consultation hub https://consultation.optical.org.

CET Review

The GOC has commissioned research to help identify what risks the optical professions pose to patients and the public, now and in the near future. The findings of this research will inform the development of the new CET scheme. The new CET scheme will come into force in the 2022 - 24 cycle.

Business standards

Council discussed ways in which the GOC could further support the rollout of the newly approved Standards for Optical Businesses. Council agreed to the implementation and communications plan to help businesses understand how to apply the standards in practice.

Legislative reform

Council discussed the importance of legislative reform to allow the GOC to operate efficiently and effectively. The GOC hope that changes to legislation to allow the GOC to appoint more hearings panel members to the Hearings Committee will happen in 2019. An increase in the number of members of the Hearing panel will enable the GOC to hold more fitness to practise hearings simultaneously and therefore speed up the process of dealing with complaints in the interests of patients and registrants alike. Currently the GOC are constrained by the availability of a limited number of hearings panel members.

Efficiency Programme

Council noted the progress that has been made so far, such as the introduction of the new fitness to practise Acceptance Criteria. The updated criteria has enhanced the GOC’s ability to focus resources on cases that raise fitness to practise concerns, thereby improving the GOC’s ability to fulfil its public protection role.

The GOC has also implemented a cross organisation review to develop both large and small-scale efficiency improvements. Successful initiatives already introduced include a greater reliance on in-house corporate legal advice rather than external lawyers. Plans to introduce additional operational efficiencies will be presented to Council later in the year.

Equality, diversity and inclusion monitoring

Council discussed the GOC’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) monitoring report 2017/18. The EDI monitoring report is based on data collected from registrants. All data is anonymised to ensure that individuals cannot be identified within the report.

Information from the EDI monitoring report helps the GOC to understand more about the optical professions and avoid any unintended barriers for registrants or the public.

The report found that 62 per cent of optometrists and dispensing opticians are women, a record high for the professions. There has been a year on year increase in the percentage of female registrants.

As part of the 2019 GOC registration process, registrants will be asked to verify their EDI information or provide it for the first time if they have not done so previously. Providing EDI remains voluntary for registrants, but Council were keen to stress its importance for helping the GOC to understand the make-up of the professions and tackle any possible barriers to fairness.

OC updates "Making Accurate Claims in Wales"

February 2019


The Optical Confederation (OC) has updated its ‘Making accurate claims in Wales’ guidance.

The new guidance is based on the most recent regulations on the NHS General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) and optical vouchers and payments in Wales.

This OC guidance aims to support eye care professionals in Wales and ensure they comply with GOS requirements.

See update here

AOI highlights concerns on eyecare in Ireland

February 2019


The AOI laid out their concerns which include:

Outpatient eye-care waiting list remains unacceptable at 41,600

Optometrists call for cataracts scheme roll-out, children’s eye-care programme, prescribing rights and payments parity

41,600 people were on the outpatient eye-care waiting list at the end of December 2018, with the list increasing from 39,900 at the end of 2017.

16,200 of these people were waiting more than a year and 10,500 more than 18 months. This is also up from 13,800 waiting more than a year and almost 7,600 more than 18 months at the end of 2017.

Association of Optometrists (AOI) Chief Executive Sean McCrave said Ireland’s eye-care services need to be reformed to meet ever-growing demand, as the population both increases and ages.

Furthermore, 9,300 people were awaiting inpatient eye procedures at the end of December – the third largest inpatient list of any medical speciality. There have however been decreases in the inpatient list over the past 12 months.

“While there was a welcome reduction in the inpatients list, and the rate of increase in the outpatient list is slowing, the mismatch between demand and availability remains enormous.

“AOI welcomes the additional theatre space at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear and Nenagh Hospitals during 2018, but these will not address this scale of demand and delays. We have a growing aged population year on year.

“Optometrists are recommending radical reform of eye-care to move towards a triaged approach of routine public care provided by Optometrists in the community and specialised care by Ophthalmologists in hospitals. In Ireland we have an unusual overreliance on hospital Ophthalmology Departments. This is a flawed approach that cannot and will not meet patient demand,” AOI stated.

AOI’s new President Patricia Dunphy highlighted the need for better organisation of cataracts surgery which accounts for a significant portion of the waiting lists backlog.

“A survey carried out by AOI in 2018 found that there are waiting times of up to five years in some parts of the country for cataract surgery. AOI is calling for national roll-out of the Sligo Post-Cataract Scheme, which has reduced waiting times and costs in the region where it is available.

“Rolling out this protocol nationally would reduce outpatient cataract appointments by up to 20,000. This alone would make a significant impact,” she said.

Optometrists call for dedicated national children’s eye-care programme

AOI called for the development of an Optometrist led national eye-care programme for 0-16 years olds to address major waiting times, gaps and inconsistencies in children’s services across the country.

Greater Prescribing rights

AOI also called for Optometrists be granted prescribing rights for antibiotic and steroid drops which it said members are already qualified to do. Ms Dunphy said this would not require any additional training, just an amendment to the Medicines Act.

She added that there are also many other prescription treatments for eye disease (such as Glaucoma) which, with additional training, Optometrists could provide. This would bring the profession here into line with the UK, with many Irish Optometrists having already completed this training after working in the UK.

“Appropriate prescribing by Optometrists would relieve some pressure on GPs and also simplify care for the patient who could be managed more comprehensively by their Optometrist,” she said.

AOI calls for HSE payments to be placed on parity with PRSI

Furthermore, AOI called for HSE payments for optical services to reach parity with PRSI payments made by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP). The amount paid by the Department under PRSI was restored in line with pre-austerity levels in 2017. However, HSE Medical Card payments remain frozen at austerity levels.

Ms. Dunphy concluded by saying that badly needed improvements for patients can be achieved by changing Ireland’s model of eye-care.

“There are many further areas where Optometry can help with delivering care such as red eye management, glaucoma and AMD. Hospital waiting lists can be reduced by directing some of these patients to Optometrists.

“AOI has estimated that in excess of €30m could be saved across services while at the same time delivering a more accessible and clinically effective service. That is because it is 50% less expensive to provide routine examinations, monitoring and care in the community than in hospital. Swifter access to care means earlier detection which is associated with better outcomes for patients, ” she said.

Priority treatment for Welsh patients at risk of sight loss.

February 2019

Today the Welsh Government announced a £3.3m investment which aims to ensure that patients in Wales who are at the greatest risk of going blind receive prioritised treatment.

The increased funding will aim to expand care closer to home so that people are seen in the most appropriate setting, and also expand the use of optometrists and other eye health professionals so that care can be safely shared between community and hospital eye care professionals.

The announcement follows a NHS-led review which was prompted by concerns raised by a consultant ophthalmologist and the RNIB.

FODO welcomed the proposal to improve care closer to home and make better use of community eye care.

FODO will be analysing the proposals in detail and will keep members up to date on any developments.

GOC Registrar stands down.

February 2019

Vicky McDermott stands down as GOC Chief Executive and Registrar

The General Optical Council (GOC) has announced that its Chief Executive and Registrar, Vicky McDermott, has stood down to spend more time with her family following the birth of her daughter.

Vicky said, “I have enjoyed my time at the GOC and I am confident that there are great things to come for the organisation. I am looking forward to pursuing other challenges and spending more time in the North East with my young family.”

GOC Chair Gareth Hadley said, “In Vicky’s time with us the GOC made significant progress with three big projects ensuring that patient safety is maintained through a period of rapid change in the optical sector: our Education Strategic Review, our CET Review and new Business Standards. We also introduced important fitness to practise reforms – our Acceptance Criteria and Consensual Panel Disposal.

“We thank Vicky for her contributions. We wish her and her family all the best for the future, as well as wishing her every success in her future career.”

The GOC’s Interim Chief Executive & Registrar, Lesley Longstone, remains in place and the GOC will soon make an announcement in respect of its plans to make a permanent appointment to the role.

College announces AGM dates and publishes Annual Report.

February 2019

The College's AGM will take place on Monday 25 February during Optometry Tomorrow 2019. You can download the agenda from the College Website.

The latest Annual Report, which focuses on our achievements during the last membership year can be seen here.
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These include:

• The launch of their new member-only journal, Acuity, which is dedicated to inspiring career journeys, professional development, and highlighting clinical and professional news.

• The development of their dedicated online learning site, which has become an essential CET and CPD resource, and introduced thousands of members to our video lectures, webinars, online peer discussions and supervision training.

• The accreditation of five new higher qualification courses, increasing availability across the country.

These could not have been achieved without the members, and the Annual Report also provides an opportunity to thank members for their continued support.

If members would like to share feedback on any of the achievements highlighted in the Annual Report, they can do so via Twitter @CollegeOptomUK

Members wishing to raise matters under Any Other Business, are asked to email Cat Moloney, Clerk to the Board and Council, in advance of the meeting.

AIO challenges need for additional training to offer enhanced services.

February 2019

The Association for Independent Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians (AIO) has written an open letter to the GOC, copied to the College, LOCSU and AOP asking why optometrists, who are already qualified to offer enhanced services, are apparently required to undertake additional training in order to tender for providing services such as Glaucoma Referral Refinement (GRR), Minor Eye Condition Scheme (MECS) and Cataract Referral pathways.

Optometrists spend three, and sometimes four, years at university gaining a specialist degree (BSc Optometry, BOptom or MOptom) and have been trained to perform tasks that they are being required to additional training to offer to patients. Whilst AIO would not object to the provision of optional refresher training for enhanced schemes, it questions what appears to be the overriding assumption that optometrists are not competent to undertake the role for which they have been trained.

AIO also questions if it is appropriate to have a single provider of the prescribed training.

Christian French AIO Chairman said: ‘The AIO Council has discussed this issue on many occasions and is surprised that no-one appears to have challenged the need for Optometrists to have to spend their own time and money to train to offer clinical services which they are already qualified to provide. It is time that this is challenged and AIO has taken responsibility for doing so’

ABDO appeals to members to get involved.

February 2019

The Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) has contacted all members asking them to respond to the General Optical Council’s Education and Standards Review as a matter of urgency.

In his letter to members, Sir Anthony Garrett CBE HonFBDO General Secretary, stated, “This review was widely welcomed when it was launched and there was a real expectation that we would see progress made towards changing our scope of practice to reflect modern challenges of an aging population and the new technologies which will help ensure the best possible outcome for patients. After two years the excitement has turned to sheer disappointment at the likely outcome for DOs.”

Key reasons for concern include:

• the GOC has deemed the minimum standard for education for a DO at Level 5 according to the Handbook 1. The vast majority of registered DOs and ABDO members have achieved Level 6 so ABDO is concerned that the regulator is setting minimum standards at a lower level than FBDO graduates currently achieve.

• proposals which may see an increase in the number of examining bodies and the potential to make all assessments internal – lack of independent, rigorous assessment will inevitably drive down standards and put the public at risk.

• a lack of innovation in the review, we would have expected to see refraction as a delegated function, MECS, screening, monitoring etc. which will have a detrimental impact on service delivery.

• the wording of Learning Outcomes does not stipulate the depth and breadth of subject matter which may mean a driving down of educational standards.
ABDO President Clive Marchant FBDO said, “We at ABDO are appalled at the prospect and hugely disappointed that a golden opportunity has been turned into a regressive and disheartening exercise. We will challenge this direction of travel and do everything possible to persuade the GOC to avoid such a disastrous move. Our principle concern is that patient safety should be the priority, and this can only be delivered by a properly trained and independently assessed professional.”

The ABDO Board has unanimously committed to writing individually to the response. The Board is making an unprecedented plea to all ABDO members to voice their concerns and work with the Association to reverse the blatant disregard of the professional status of dispensing opticians in the review.

Follow this link to read the consultation document and submit your own response. Members have until 25th February.

FODO visits National Council for the Blind Ireland (NCBI)

February 2019

FODO Ireland and the NCBI met this week to have high level talks on how to improve primary eye care and ensure patients get access to the services they need. The meeting was attended by FODO CEO David Hewlett, FODO Ireland Senior Policy Officer Peter Fogarty and NCBI Head of Foundation Joe McKenna.

David Hewlett said: "Eye Heath, preventing visual impairment and supporting people who have visual impairment should be public health priorities. Working together, we can make this a reality and improve the system so that all patients get the care they need.

Whether it is children who are losing out while languishing on waiting lists at the start of their lives or older adults not getting the interventions of support, they need putting them at risk of sight loss, we have to do more together to get eye health up the agenda. We look forward to working with colleagues at the NCBI to seek improvements, better care and better support for all."

Optermetry Scotland1

Optometry Scotland - General Ophthalmic Services webinar reminder

February 2019

Optometry Scotland (OS) will be hosting a webinar on Monday 18th February at 7pm. The event has been accredited for CET, with two points available for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians. 

The event will help professionals delivering General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) in NHS Scotland understand more about 

  • Community Eyecare Services Review Implementation 
  • Payment Verification Arrangements for 2018/19 
  • Amendments of the 2006 GOS Regulations 
  • Changes applicable to the primary and supplementary eye examinations from 1st October 2018
If you deliver GOS in Scotland you can book a space by contacting Emma at emma.kellacher@optometryscotland.org.uk.

GOC suspends Yorkshire based dispensing optician

January 2019

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Dilesh Gohil, a dispensing optician based in Yorkshire, from its register for nine months.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found his fitness to practise impaired by his criminal conviction for sexual assault and by misconduct relating to his failure to declare this conviction to the GOC.

In making the decision, the Committee, chaired by Sara Fenoughty said:

“The registrant had departed from the relevant standards in respect of being honest and trustworthy, and ensuring his conduct did not damage public confidence in him or the profession.

“However he had shown a willingness to work to ensure that there would be no repetition of his misconduct and had shown remorse and some insight in relation to his colleague, and the profession. He did not demonstrate deep-seated attitudinal issues which were incompatible with continued professional registration.

“The Committee considered that this was a case that could be met by a period of suspension with a review. The Registrant had shown capacity to develop insight and could be someone that could return to safe practice after a period of structured suspension, in which attention could be directed towards practical and reassuring steps, such as a professional boundaries course.”

Mr Gohil has until 21 February 2019 to appeal his suspension, during which time he is suspended from the register under an immediate suspension order.

GOC erases Helensburgh based optometrist

January 2019

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to erase Malcolm Craig, an optometrist based in Helensburgh, Scotland from its register. He will now be unable to practise as an optometrist in the UK.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found his fitness to practise impaired by reason of misconduct relating to the Registrant’s failure to adequately assess patients and maintain an adequate standard of record keeping.

In making the decision, the Committee, chaired by Pamela Ormerod, said: “The Committee concluded that there is a real risk of the Registrant repeating his errors in the future, and that his persistent and basic clinical failings would adversely affect public confidence in the profession.

“The Committee further concluded that the Registrant has breached a fundamental tenet of his profession, in that he has failed to ensure that he operates in an environment where patient wellbeing is paramount. Therefore, the Committee finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

“The Committee concluded that the Registrant’s misconduct is incompatible with being a registered professional and he should therefore be erased from the Register. The Committee determined an immediate order of suspension is required for public protection and public interest purposes.”

Mr Craig has until 12 February 2019 to appeal his erasure, during which time he is suspended from the register under an immediate suspension order.

GOC Business Standards consultation receives positive response from the optical sector

January 2019

Today the GOC has published the full report of the consultation into new draft Standards for Optical Businesses. Analysis of the consultation findings show high approval levels from respondents, with the majority agreeing that they will have a positive impact on optical businesses, professionals and the public.

Of the 351 unique responses received to the survey, 87 per cent were from registrants and the public, while the remaining 13 per cent were from organisations, including registered optical businesses, non-registered optical businesses and optical representative bodies and associations.

Key results from the survey undertaken as part of the consultation included 70% of respondents agreeing that the standards can be applied by and to different types of optical businesses and a further 81 % of respondents agreeing that the GOC’s expectations of optical businesses are clear. Many respondents also reported that the draft proposals reflect ‘what businesses do anyway’.

Feedback from patients also underscored the importance of business standards, with 84 % of patients interviewed saying they would rather “use an optical business that meets a certain set of standards, than one that does not”

However, some key stakeholders had concerns surrounding the wording of the standards and the potential impacts. The GOC is working with these stakeholders to better understand their concerns and address the issues they’ve raised.

Alistair Bridge, GOC Director of Strategy, said: “Business registrants play an essential role in the provision of optical services to the public. Our new business standards will make our expectations of registrants clear and are necessary to reflect changes in the optical and wider healthcare practice over the last few years, including incorporating recommendations from recent healthcare inquiries, emerging technologies and the increased prevalence of multidisciplinary working.

“We are pleased with the positive feedback to the consultation. Currently we are working with stakeholders to address the issues raised and to ensure the new Standards are fit for purpose and as future proof as possible.”

The consultation into draft Standards for Optical Businesses was carried out from 14 June 2018 until 30 August 2018 and was comprised of a survey hosted on our consultation hub, as well as interviews and focus groups with a number of our stakeholder groups.

The GOC also partnered with the independent research agency Pye Tait Consulting to conduct focus groups and interviews with 267 registrants and members of the public.

Standards for Optical Businesses will be reviewed by the GOC’s Council in February and once approved the final Standards are expected to come into force in October 2019.

To read the consultation report please visit:

FODO members benefit from improved optical insurance and defence

January 2019

In the Christmas letter from FODO Chief Executive, David Hewlett, mention was made of the improved benefits starting this month to FODO insured members.

They will benefit from a doubling of cover per claim for professional liability insurance from £5 million to £10 million as well as maintaining level terms (no increase) in their insurance premiums and membership fees for 2019.

This is a market leading initiative to future-proof FODO members and ensure they fully meet the £10 million requirement that commissioners are increasingly insisting on under the NHS Standard Contract in England.

The change is also intended to safeguard FODO members during the government's review of insurance for regulated professionals operating outside hospitals and will stand them in good stead for expansion in both the NHS and private markets this year and into the future. FODO insurance for many years has been regarded as the gold standard for practitioners and practices.

Preparations for that "B" word


January 2019

On 21 December the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) published a letter and operational readiness guidance to prepare in the event of a no deal Brexit.

This provides advice on what the Government, health care commissioners and health care providers need to consider in advance of EU exit.

You can read a short FODO briefing here to assist on matters that might directly affect you.

You may have received copies from your NHS Area Team, or via the latest LOCSU Hot Brief. FODO are also aware that some CCGs have asked contractors to complete risk assessment forms on the 7 issues covered in the guidance.

This is, in their view, is excessive, since the issues raised are either not applicable to optical practice, or not significant. FODO will raise the issue with NHS England and provide further advice next week.

In addition, the Medical and Health Care Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) published further guidance on 3 January on the regulation of medicines and medical devices, if there is no deal.

NHS Long Term Plan published

January 2019

FODO has welcomed the NHS Long Term Plan (published 7 January 2019). There is much that community optics, ophthalmology and hearing services can get behind, although there are also some potential risks.

Read the plan here

You can read FODOs full statement here.

The Plan will underpin much of FODO’s work plan in England on your behalf in the coming year.

Visualise publish 3 more succinct clinical briefings

January 2019

Visualise Training and Consultancy has published a further 3 briefings to assist the visually impaired and those whose role is to care or work with them or advise.

We have added these to the growing number of clinical briefings that will remain accessible for reference information here.

The subjects cover patient experiences, staying in work with sight loss and a full guide for dealing with sight loss for Opticians, titled What more can be done for Lucy?

Full list here.


 
 
 
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