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Opchat Magazine Professional Matters PagesProfessional Matters News, July to September 2020


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ABDO's considered views on the GOC ESR Consultation
GOC erases Scarborough based dispensing optician
OFNC July 31 UPDATE: COVID-19 Funding for Optical Practices in England
GOC launches ESR consultation on updated education and training requirements
NHS encourages online registration and advises on change in GOS forms by October 1
With under 24 hours notice Government excludes the mandatory use of masks in Optical Practices.
News from The General Optical Council
OFNC UPDATE: COVID-19 Funding for Optical Practices in England
CET claims – England, The How and The When.
PSA rejects allegations about GOC
GOC erases London based optometrist
Scotland – new PCA for expanded services
Membership Organisations and Colleges combine to release Workforce Risk Assessment
OFNC UPDATE: COVID-19 FUNDING for Optical Practices in England
College provides advice on COVID-19: Preparing for local lockdowns
OFNC Update: NHS Funding for Optical Practices across England and in local lockdowns
AOP response to petition
AIO gets clarity from the GOC on what services practices could offer in lockdown
AIO meets with GOC Registrar to discuss The GOC's position on routine testing during the Lockdown by practices from March 23rd.
Archived Professional Matters April to June 2020

ABDO's considered views on the GOC ESR Consultation

August 2020

The Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) is concerned that proposals in the latest consultation from by the General Optical Council (GOC) as part of its Education Strategic Review (ESR) create a significant risk of inconsistent standards of education and lower standards of education. (Initial Opchat Report here)

ABDO’s concerns arise because the high-level education outcomes do not make clear what clinical knowledge and skills student dispensing opticians and optometrists will need in order to join the GOC register. Together with the absence of a common assessment framework, this means that there will be no guarantee that students reach a safe baseline for entry to the profession. The risk of inconsistent, lower standards is magnified by the fact that there is the potential for multiple routes to registration for both optometrists and dispensing opticians.

ABDO also believes that the GOC has also failed to explain why it is proposing to introduce the single point of accountability model for dispensing opticians.

ABDO understands that this model is designed to lead to student optometrists’ clinical experience being more integrated with their academic study, but nearly all student dispensing opticians combine academic study with working in practice already.

ABDO is concerned about the consultation process, given that respondents to consultation will be unable to make an informed response because the GOC

• has not published any estimates of the costs associated with the proposed new system;
• has not explained who will bear these costs;
• has not shown that the costs will be outweighed by any potential benefits;
• has not distinguished between the impacts on the system of education for optometrists and the impacts on the system for dispensing opticians;
• and has not considered any alternative options so that the relative costs and benefits of the proposed new system can be assessed.

ABDO General Secretary Sir Anthony Garrett CBE HonFBDO says, “I hope all Dispensing Opticians as well as other professionals in the world of optics will take time to read the GOC’s proposals and to study our concerns. We believe that the current proposals are not fit for purpose and need substantial changes. We trust that as many people as possible will wish to respond to the GOC consultation. In order for the public to be properly protected as well as served it is vital that the integrity of the profession is maintained and enhanced. The GOC proposals makes this objective impossible to achieve.”
ABDO remains committed to protecting the public by ensuring that student dispensing opticians are equipped for future roles and despite its concerns will continue to work with the GOC in an effort to develop a new system that delivers consistently high standards of education and supports extended scopes of practice.

You can read ABDO’s concerns in full here.

The consultation is live until 19 October 2020. To take part, visit the GOC Consultation Hub.

GOC erases Scarborough based dispensing optician

August 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to erase Rebecca Butler, a dispensing optician based in Scarborough, from its register.

She will now be unable to practise as a dispensing optician in the UK.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found her fitness to practise impaired by reason of misconduct.

This is in relation to repeatedly processing false refunds and removing cash from the till of her employer.

Ms Butler had until 17 June 2020 to appeal her erasure, during which time she was suspended from the register under an immediate suspension order.

OFNC July 31 UPDATE: COVID-19 Funding for Optical Practices in England

August 2020

The OFNC is only too aware of the front-line pressures on the sector and we continue to express this urgency in negotiations with NHS England about COVID-19 funding for optical practices, following the end of the first phase funding on 30 June.

On 20 July we announced that while these negotiations continue, it had been agreed that the previous level of COVID-19 funding for GOS contractors in England would be extended until 31 July. This means average GOS payments for this period will be made in August in the usual way.

We are pleased to report that COVID-19 funding is now likely to be extended until 31 August for fixed practices that reach a minimum level of historic GOS1 activity. There is likely to be a requirement of minimum activity of 40% or more, but this is yet to be confirmed. Support will also be extended into August for domiciliary providers, whatever their level of activity.

We are still in negotiations about further support beyond August for practices in deprived areas which largely provide NHS care and are struggling to recover, and for domiciliary providers who continue to face difficulties in reaching patients. We are also continuing to discuss the cost implications for all practices of PPE.

We hope to be able to make a further statement about these issues in the next few days.
Statement prepared bt OFNC Spokesperson

GOC launches ESR consultation on updated education and training requirements

July 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC) has today launched its Education Strategic Review (ESR) consultation on proposals to update its requirements for GOC approved qualifications leading to registration as a dispensing optician or an optometrist.

The consultation is seeking views on the following:

• Outcomes for Registration, which describe the proposed knowledge, skills and behaviours a dispensing optician or optometrist must have at the point they qualify and register with the GOC

• Standards for Approved Qualifications, which explain the expected context for the delivery and assessment of the outcomes leading to an award of an approved qualification

• Quality Assurance and Enhancement Method, which describes how the GOC proposes to gather evidence to decide whether qualifications leading to registration meet its Outcomes for Registration and Standards for Approved Qualifications

These documents will replace the GOC’s current Quality Assurance Handbooks for optometry and dispensing opticians, which includes the required core competencies students must meet, the numerical requirements for students’ practical experiences, and related education policies and guidance. They will also replace the GOC’s supervision policy, which outlines requirements for the supervision of trainees undertaking practice-based learning, and the GOC’s policy on the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).

Their development was led by two Expert Advisory Groups (EAGs) for optometrists and for dispensing opticians with input from the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), which includes feedback from a range of stakeholders including patient representatives, the optical sector and sight-loss charities, the GOC’s Advisory Panel (including the Education Committee) and Education Visitors.

The proposals build upon feedback from the 2018-19 consultation on proposals stemming from the Education Strategic Review (ESR), and analysis of key findings from the concepts and principles consultation published in 2017-18.

Leonie Milliner, GOC Director of Education, said: “The proposed documents will ensure the qualifications we approve are responsive to a rapidly changing landscape in the commissioning of eye-care services in each of the devolved nations. They respond to the changing needs of patients and service users and changes in higher education, not least as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as increased expectations of the student community and their future employers.

We need to consult now to ensure that our current requirements do not become out of date and that the qualifications we approve in the future are fit for purpose. It’s also important that we consult now so that the changes we make to our qualifications align with the changes we make to our pre-registration competence requirements as part of our Continuing Education and Training (CET) Review.

We have worked with a wide range of stakeholders from the optical sector to develop these proposals and we look forward to continuing to work with the sector to ensure optical education is fit for the future. We would like to thank everyone who took the time to help us develop our proposals to ensure they protect and benefit the public, safeguard patients and help to secure the health of service-users.”

To take part in the consultation, visit the GOC Consultation Hub. The last date to participate is 19 October 2020.

NHS encourages online registration and advises on change in GOS forms by October 1

July 2020

The NHS has confirmed that current GOS forms will cease on 30 September 2020, with practices encouraged to submit claims online and those that cannot do so to complete new style paper forms from 1 October, designed to be scanned in on receipt by PCSE. .

Changes to GOS claims

With practices now moving to submitting GOS claims online, the current paper GOS forms will cease on 30 September 2020. New style paper forms, designed for use if online claims are not possible, will be in operation from 1 October 2020.

What is the electronic GOS payments system? A new online system for submitting GOS claims was launched in October 2019 by Primary Care Support England (PCSE) and NHS England & Improvement.

This system was designed to replace the 18 million paper forms that move around the country each year, making the process of submitting claims easier for optical practices, improving cashflow and reporting for all, and establishing a clear environmental benefit at the same time.

Practices of all types and sizes have since moved over to the online claims system. PCSE has been working closely with Practice Management Software (PMS) providers to assist with their software updates, and directly with practices to support roll outs across the country.

Feedback to date has been that the system is intuitive to use, easy to adapt to and provides more clarity on status and payments than paper forms.

Making claims during COVID-19

NHS England recognise that optical practices are focused on adjusting to the new demands placed on them by COVID-19. Electronic submission maximises safety for staff involved, we ask that practices move to the online claims system as a priority.

Additional safety measures have also been put in place, such as enabling ‘COVID-19’ to be entered in the patient signature box for claims submitted during the crisis, removing the need for patient contact.

How to move to online claims:

- If you are part of large chain, please contact your head office to understand their rollout plans

- If you use a PMS system please speak to your provider directly to understand how to switch to online submissions. If your PMS provider is not yet ready you can use PCSE Online free of charge in the interim.

- If you do not use a PMS then you can use PCSE Online. To get set up simply email to get started.

To ensure that practices are supported every step of the way to move to the online system by 30 September, we have streamlined the registration process.

PCSE has also produced resources to support practices with user registration, getting set up and making claims.

Should you have any questions relating to the information please contact the PCSE team directly at

With under 24 hours notice Government excludes the mandatory use of masks in Optical Practices.

July 2020

Difficult to provide any logical reason for this anomaly but these were the new rules released today.

The regulations state that premises in England providing wholly or mainly medical services, including dentistry, optometry and audiology, are exempt, and as such, there is no mandate on the use of face coverings. Although this means it won’t be possible to legally enforce the wearing of face coverings, practices can ask all patients who come in to do so voluntarily (unless they are exempt).

What does this mean for optometry?

Although the regulations mean that face coverings are not mandatory in optometric practices in England, the College guidance remains the same.

They recommend practices encourage their patients to wear face coverings unless the patient has an acceptable reason resulting in an exemption.

Optometrists can request that a patient removes their face covering for any part of the examination where it affects the ability of a practitioner to perform the sight test or consultation.

One would assume that most practitioners and almost all patients would want to wear a face covering, and it is therefore reasonable to request that they do.

How those not wishing to comply will leave yet another conundrum for practices deal with given their is no back up in law.

News from The General Optical Council

July 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC) held its second remote Council meeting on Wednesday 15 July which considered a review of the strategic plan, the Education Strategic Review (ESR), temporary changes to optometry education and training requirements, the GOC annual report and the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) Annual Report 2019-2020.

Strategic plan review resulting from COVID-19 pandemic

Council reviewed the five-year ‘Fit for the Future’ strategic plan in relation to the impacts of COVID-19.

It was agreed that no significant changes are required at this stage, although some minor additions and changes to emphasis will be made. Council also identified areas of the plan that could be accelerated, delayed or cancelled should the GOC be further impacted by COVID-19. Key workstreams such as the ESR and the Continuing Education and Training (CET) review will continue.

Education Strategic Review (ESR): support for implementation

Council considered use of reserves to fund two schemes to support the implementation of proposals stemming from the Education Strategic Review (ESR).

Council approved the use of reserves of up to £315,000 over a period of nine years beginning in 2021.

This will support two schemes:

a) Longitudinal research to measure the effectiveness of our outcomes and standards for GOC approved qualifications on new registrants’ competence, confidence and capability (measuring the change we want to see).

b) A knowledge exchange/ information hub to facilitate cross-sector knowledge-led collaborations in supporting programme leaders and academic faculty to design innovative, integrated qualifications that meet GOC outcomes and standards, reducing the risk of poorly designed education programmes failing to meet GOC standards.

Optical education: annual monitoring and reporting

Council considered the Approval and Quality Assurance (A&QA) Annual Monitoring & Reporting Sector Report for the optical education sector for the academic year 2018/19.

Council discussed the findings of this report which identified the following themes and risks affecting the optical education sector:

• Optometry (OO) programmes reported a high ratio of applications to admissions, strong academic qualifications (average offer) amongst prospective students and high levels of student progression and attainment.
• Ophthalmic dispensing (DO) programmes reported high levels of student progression but appear to have experienced difficulty in recruiting students.
• National Student Survey (NSS) scores for OO and DO programmes outperform the national average.
• Independent prescribing (IP) programmes showed a high level of student attainment in their internal exams

The report will be published on the GOC website later this month.

Quality Assurance Handbook (Optometry): temporary changes to standards and requirements in light of COVID-19

Council considered temporary changes to the optometry education standards and requirements for the incoming cohort of optometry students in Autumn 2020.

The changes were in light of a proposal from the College of Optometrists (College) to make temporary arrangements to its Scheme for Registration (SfR).

The GOC intends to run a short, targeted consultation on the proposed temporary changes. Full details on the proposed changes are included in the Council papers.

GOC annual report

Council considered and approved the GOC annual report for 2019/20. The report contains information regarding the arrangements to ensure adherence to good practice regarding equality and diversity and information regarding the Fitness to Practise (FTP)annual report.

Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) Annual Report 2019-2020

Council noted the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) Annual Report for 2019-2020. Nockolds Resolution have delivered the OCCS since 2014 and provide an effective and efficient mediation service between patients and registrants on a variety of lower level complaints which may otherwise be received by the GOC Fitness to Practise (FTP) team.

Last year there was an 80% reduction in referrals from the OCCS to the FTP team as a result of the work undertaken by the OCCS to increase knowledge on how effective complaint handling at the earliest stage can minimise the escalation to fitness to practise.

Since 2014 there has been an almost 260% increase in enquiries received alongside an almost 60% reduction in costs providing excellent value for money for the GOC. OCCS Annual Report will be published on the OCCS and GOC website in due course.

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) decision on recent petition

Council noted that the PSA has considered the matters raised from a recent petition calling for the GOC to be investigated for conflicts of interest.

The PSA decided that there were no grounds to carry out an investigation into the GOC. Chief Executive and Registrar, Lesley Longstone said “We welcome the decision from the PSA and will cooperate with any further information requests as part of our next performance review in October 2020”.

The next Council meeting takes place on 11 November 2020.

OFNC UPDATE: COVID-19 Funding for Optical Practices in England

July 2020


The OFNC is still working with NHS England on potential further COVID-19 funding for optical practices, following the end of the first phase of funding on 30 June.

It has now been agreed that while these negotiations continue, the previous level of COVID-19 funding for GOS contractors in England will continue for a further month until 31 July. This will mean average GOS payments for this period being made in August in the usual way.

In the meantime we are pressing NHS England to take steps to ensure that practices in relatively deprived areas that largely provide NHS care, and domiciliary providers that continue to face difficulty in reaching vulnerable patients, can survive and continue to provide NHS eye care in the recovery phase of the pandemic.

We are also exploring the cost implications for all practices of ongoing infection control measures including PPE, and the need to be ready for potential second phase or local lockdowns.

We hope that we will be in a position to make a statement about these issues soon.

We will share more information on the outcome of our ongoing discussions with NHS England as soon as we can.

CET claims – England, The How and The When.

July 2020

PCSE has announced that this year the claims window for CET claims will be delayed because of Covid-19. This year, claims will all be managed online, and professionals are advised to:
• Ensure you are set up or have a login to authorise claims online

• Help authorise claims for self-employed optometrists whom you have engaged during the year

• Make sure you do not delay claims unduly by having established systems

Click here for guidance on the entire process

PSA rejects allegations about GOC

July 2020

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has considered claims made on about alleged conflicts of interest in the GOC’s governance structure and the suggestion that it was “not fit for purpose”.

The original petition, started by an anonymous source claiming to be an optometrist, called for greater transparency and made several claims about the GOC’s Covid-19 guidance and governance structure and other registrants. The petitioner then called on the PSA to investigate their allegations.

The PSA reviewed claims made in the petition and found that:

• The GOC had consulted with an appropriate range of stakeholder organisations before publishing its Covid-19 guidance

• The GOC had acknowledged when its Covid-19 guidance could have been clearer and worked with professional bodies to clarify this at the time

• There was no evidence of undue influence by a specific individual or business registrants.

In short, the PSA found no evidence of serious concerns about the performance of the GOC or grounds for undertaking a special investigation into the alleged conflicts of interest or other matters raised in the petition.

In a newsletter to its members, who include Specsavers, FODO commented, "Although it is right to raise concerns where necessary, it is also essential for members of the profession to keep in mind GOC standard 17.2, about ensuring “conduct in the online environment, particularly in relation to social media, whether or not connected to your professional practice, does not damage public confidence in you or your profession”.

The statement continued, "It is important to raise legitimate concerns and to do so in a professional way, which includes basic due diligence such as checking whether a petition is run by an anonymous source and on a credible platform – some online petitions can be changed after you have signed them. For example you can inform the PSA directly about any concerns by using the official feedback form."

Read the PSA’s full statement.

GOC erases London based optometrist

July 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to erase Arif Chanawala, an optometrist based in London, 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.

This is in relation to carrying out sight tests unauthorised by the National Health Service and failing to carry out adequate sight tests and maintain adequate records.

Mr Chanawala had until 10 July 2020 to appeal his erasure, during which time he was suspended from the register under an immediate suspension order.

Scotland – new PCA for expanded services and submission of payment claims

July 2020

The Scottish Government has published PCA(O)2020(11) which reminds all providers about the 15 July deadline for submission of ‘Part 2’ payment claims for activity during Lockdown and Phase 1.

The new PCA also confirms that from Monday 13 July, members in Scotland can increase their “provision of needs-led and/or symptoms-led emergency and essential eye care, and start to meet outstanding care as capacity permits subject to certain conditions being met”.

The PCA, however, makes clear that “the provision of routine eye care in any setting” and face-to-face domiciliary eye care services remain suspended until further notice.

There is also more detailed information on financial support during phase 3, with practices continuing to receive ‘Part 1’ monthly support payments (as set out in PCA(O)2020(4)) until further notice. However, to receive this payment practices must electronically submit all GOS(S)1, GOS(S)3 and GOS(S)4 forms as set out in the 9 July PCA. Failing to comply with these requirements might result in support payments being stopped.

The Scottish Government has said it will “continue to review the appropriateness of the financial support provided to practices” based on compliance with the detail set out in this week’s PCA. 

Members in Scotland should read the latest PCA in full

Membership Organisations and Colleges combine to release Workforce Risk Assessment

July 2020

Employers and self-employed people must assess the health and safety risks at work. This includes an assessment of risk related to Covid-19 infection. Some people are more at risk of contracting and experiencing adverse outcomes of Covid-19 than others and it is important to perform a workforce risk assessment in addition to your workplace risk assessment.

This interim guidance note is based on the evidence of workforce risk available at the time of publication and will be reviewed and updated as more evidence becomes available.
Read the full Risk Assessment Guidance on PHN's Covid Hub.

OFNC UPDATE: COVID-19 FUNDING for Optical Practices in England

July 2020

As the profession is aware, NHS England’s COVID-19 funding for optical practices during the first phase of the pandemic ended on 30 June. The OFNC submitted new funding proposals to NHS England on 16 June, and the following day NHS England publicly committed to work with us on COVID-19 funding requirements for the next phase. However, NHS England has not yet put any new arrangements in place.

Yesterday (July 2nd) NHS England put to us for the first time a very limited proposal for temporary further funding, which we rejected as inadequate and unworkable. Today we have written again to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Minister for Primary Care, to ensure that NHS England works with us urgently on new funding arrangements to enable practices to maintain the delivery of NHS services.

We have told NHS England that funding for NHS commissioned primary eye care services during this phase of the pandemic must:

• Cover the additional costs of providing NHS eye care during this phase, including enhanced infection prevention and control measures

• Fund practices to deliver remote care for NHS patients, in line with guidance from NHS England, the General Optical Council and the College of Optometrists

• Ensure that practices in relatively deprived areas that largely provide NHS care, and domiciliary providers that continue to face difficulty in accessing vulnerable patients in care homes, can survive and continue to provide NHS eye care

• Fulfil NHS England’s requirement to incentivise providers to prioritise NHS patients, and to secure value for money

• Align with the arrangements NHS England makes during local lockdowns so that providers can focus on meeting patient needs throughout the pandemic, keeping pressure off GPs and hospitals

We know the continued uncertainty over future funding arrangements is causing immense difficulty and concern for eye care providers across England.

We are continuing to press NHS England to work constructively with us to address our proposals and develop a solution which is fit for purpose and meets the needs of patients, NHS England and NHS primary eye care providers.

The OFNC will provide more information as soon as they can.

College provides advice on COVID-19: Preparing for local lockdowns

July 2020

Following the lockdown in Leicester announced on 29 June, we anticipate more local lockdowns being enforced during this phase of the pandemic.

As local lockdowns could be announced at short notice, the College may not be able to immediately highlight them to members if they occur out of office hours. Therefore, we recommend that members and practice owners make plans for local lockdown in their area.

The College’s COVID-19 Pandemic Guidance table was written in anticipation of local lockdowns and is designed to enable optometrists to act swiftly when a local lockdown is announced. Optometrists should use their professional judgement to immediately and appropriately adapt their practices. These measures will help protect local residents from COVID-19 infection, while maintaining the community’s essential eye health and vision needs.

Check information with official local sources

There may be a lag between a government announcement and guidance being published by the local public health and NHS/health services. So, in the first instance practice owners should verify any announcement through a trusted news or government source and then look to their local council for information on the geographic area that is included.

Follow relevant College guidance

If you are working in an area that returns to lockdown, we advise that you should immediately follow the guidance set out in the red column of the College’s COVID-19 Pandemic Guidance table and the detailed recommendations for practice during this phase.

You should take the following actions as soon as the announcement has been made:

1. Face-to-face eye care should only be for patients who need essential or urgent/emergency eye care. The exact mechanism for this service provision will be decided by local arrangements such as Emergency Eye Treatment Centres (EETCs) or urgent care hubs.

2. Triage and eye care should be provided remotely, with patients only seen face-to-face when necessary. Patients already booked for appointments should be contacted to ascertain their level of need. You should postpone their visit if they do not need urgent/emergency or essential care.

3. Practice should be adapted as set out in the red column of the College’s COVID-19 Pandemic Guidance table. You do not need to wait for a College statement before following this guidance.

4. Practices should continue to follow the College’s guidance on infection control, social distancing and PPE.

OFNC Update: NHS Funding for Optical Practices across England and in local lockdowns

July 2020

In our recent discussions with NHS England on COVID-19 funding for optical practices in England, the OFNC has stressed the need for ongoing support in the event of local or regional lockdowns being introduced. This morning the OFNC met NHS England again and discussed the position in Leicester. We understand that NHS England is planning to shortly confirm the next steps for all primary care providers in Leicester, including optical practices.

Meanwhile our discussions with NHS England on future COVID-19 funding for all GOS contractors in England have continued.

The current arrangements end with effect from today, and contractors are understandably frustrated that NHS England has not clarified funding arrangements for the increased cost associated with NHS care from July onwards.

The OFNC continues to press NHS England for a decision on this so that practices and practitioners can focus on meeting the eye health needs of local people safely throughout the pandemic.

We have also clearly set out the additional challenges faced by domiciliary providers. We will provide more information on all these issues, and on the outstanding issue of agreed deductions as set out in NHS England’s 1 April letter to contractors, as soon as we can.

AOP response to petition

June 2020

AOP informs us that the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) will be looking into the matter regarding the GOC performance over Practitioners disobeying the lockdown requirements

The AOP is aware of the petition on asking the Professional Standards Authority to investigate alleged conflicts of interest in the General Optical Council’s governance structure.

The PSA has issued a statement to say that it is “seeking information about the matters raised from the GOC and will make a further statement in response to the petition within the next three weeks”.

Any regulatory body needs to be – and be perceived as – impartial in the positions it takes, and must treat all its registrants fairly and consistently. We are therefore pleased the PSA is looking into the matter.

The petition signatures stand at 7000 currently 500 short of the target for action.(June 23rd 15.00)

AIO gets clarity from the GOC on what services practices could offer in lockdown

June 2020

Independent body invites any breaches of lockdown rules to be reported

AIO today issued a Statement following recent controversy over apparent breaches of lockdown rules by opticians following a meeting with the GOC's CEO Lesley Longstone.

Following this meeting an agreed Statement (see following story) makes it clear that no routine eye examinations or sight tests should have been conducted between the period 23rd March 2020 and 15th June 2020. Any practice breaching the Rules should therefore be subject to Fitness to Practice proceedings.

AIO is aware that there may have been multiple breaches of the rules across the UK and is therefore inviting members and the wider optical community, Independent and Multiple alike, to report and provide evidence of such breaches to the GOC (or to AIO for onward submission) in order that Fitness to Practice proceedings can be commenced in each case.

Any breach reported through AIO will be treated in complete confidence and the reporting party will not be disclosed to the GOC or any other third party. Breaches can be reported to or by telephone to 0800 1300 486 and ask for Mike or Lin

Dr Christian French, AIO Chairman said ‘we were appalled to see evidence of a blatant breach of lockdown rules by optical practices being circulated in the public domain. Against a backdrop of our members (and the Independent sector more widely) strictly observing present GOC rules, teamed with the stresses, uncertainties and hardship that the lockdown has occasioned, a cavalier and total disregard in some quarters is totally unacceptable and must dealt with appropriately. It should never be acceptable that a business goes against the direct advice of our regulatory body (whose rules are put in place for public safety). Such behaviour suggests severely misplaced priorities around public safety, going against the very principles of our profession.'

" Whilst we are aware of, and fully understand, the motivation of the Change.Org petition that has been circulating, our focus is on ensuring clarity regarding the Statements issued by our regulator, whilst bringing to account those who have broken those rules and denigrated our profession in such a blatant manner.’

AIO, as the only representative body in optics which represents Independents exclusively, and without any external influence, is determined that there can be no hiding place for those that have broken the rules against the backdrop.

AIO meets with GOC Registrar to discuss The GOC's position on routine testing during the Lockdown by practices from March 23rd.

June 2020

The AIO met with Lesley Longstone, Chief Executive and Registrar at the GOC on Thursday 18th June and agreed the following statement with them:

• The GOC position as laid out in their circular to all Registrants on 23rd March 2020, which stated ‘In light of concerns regarding the provision of eye services in England, we have issued a statement in support of suspending routine services and limiting registrants to only providing essential and urgent, emergency or acute care’ was confirmed as applying equally to NHS and privately provided care.

• That position, in support of professional guidance from The College of Optometrists, ABDO, AOP and OFNC remained unchanged until their further statement issued on the 12th June 2020.

• Paragraph 4 of the GOC statement issued on 12th June, which reads ‘in our view this means that registrants are able to deliver private eye care including private sight tests / eye examinations and aftercare appointments’ still has to be delivered in accordance with professional guidance including “amber phase” College guidance effective from 15th June

• The recommendation that private eye care services could be expanded beyond that which was urgent or essential, became effective from 15th June 2020 in England when the College changed from Red to Amber guidance. It did not change the position from 23rd March 2020 to 15th June 2020. It was accepted that this point could have been worded in more explicit terms.

• Fitness to Practice matters against individuals and businesses are always judged against the standards that were in place at the time of the alleged breach of GOC standards.

• The GOC is unable to make any public comment on any ongoing Fitness to Practice matter


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