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Opchat Magazine Professional Matters PagesProfessional Matters News, January to March 2021

Optometry/Dispensing


GOC itself feels the shadow of inspection on its regulatory roles by Department of Health and Social Care
What will the first sweeping changes to NHS and eye care provision create from the White Paper?
New AOP Infection control and prevention certificate
CUES – filling the gaps a year on ~ advice from LOCSU
New Council members welcomed at College AGM
CQC Consultation on changes for more flexible and responsive regulation
Still more pain with e-GOS delays
GOC launches 2021 registrant survey
FODO supports whistleblowing and speaking up guidance
Voting opens for the 2021 elections of AOP Council
NHS ENGLAND Rejects Support Proposal for struggling practices
Changes to PPE reimbursement scheme system in NI and also deadlines very close
GOC suspends Glasgow based optometrist
College President comments on the Education Strategic Review, published this week
CCEHC makes recommendations for children who have missed out on vision screening due to COVID-19.
HCPC publishes report on the professions it regulates and the unregulated expansion of advanced care.
AOP responds to NHS reform announcement
FODO to look at new future regulations in Primary Care being considered in Government White paper
College of Optometrists updates Guidance for Professional Practice
ABDO responds to GOC New Training Requirements
GOC Council approves new education and training requirements for dispensing opticians and optometrists
GOC announces Dr Anne Wright CBE as new Chair of Council
AOP opens nominations for new Council representatives in 2021
GOC suspends London based optometrist
OFNC February Update
GOC suspends London based student optometrist
GOC erases Shropshire based dispensing optician
PSA to appeal GOC Honey Rose decision
New Covid-19 guidance from the College of Optometrists
CQC launches Consultation
GOC suspends Birmingham based dispensing optician
New Trustees for ABDO College
 GOC response to petition by OPG outlined in the next story
Ophthalmic Practitioners' Group has started this petition to Professional Standards Authority and 2 others
2021 New Annual Plan published by ABDO
Joint statement from Chief Executives of statutory regulators of health and social care professionals
OFNC UPDATE: IMPACT of New Lockdown on practices in England
Optometrists should follow College’s Amber Phase guidance
GOC erases Liverpool based optometrist
GOC launches consultation on Speaking Up guidance for registrants
Archived Professional Matters October to December 2020


GOC itself feels the shadow of inspection on its regulatory roles by Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)

March 2021

As it (DHSC) published last week a consultation on Regulating Health Care Professionals, Protecting the Public.

The reforms cover four broad areas – governance and operating framework, education and training, registration, and fitness to practise (FTP).

The consultation also sets out “next steps for the reform of professional regulation” to follow this consultation.

The consultation notes that:

• Any changes to regulating businesses “will be considered and consulted on when our reforms are delivered into that regulator’s legislation”.

• “The GOC is the only regulator which holds a student register”. The proposal is to “remove any powers or duties for regulators to hold a register of students”, which includes “removing the duty on the GOC to hold a student register”

• There is a general preference to move to a unitary board structure.
The government also intends to:

• “Commission a review of the professions that are currently regulated in the UK, to consider whether statutory regulation remains appropriate for these professions”

• “Commission an independent review of the number of regulators.”

The GOC response was that they welcomed this consultation and the aim to give all health and social care regulators broadly equivalent powers in order to maintain a level of consistency and effective public protection.

They think that removing overly prescriptive, complex and rigid legislative frameworks will allow regulators greater freedom to respond to future challenges, such as COVID-19, in a quicker and more effective way. They also note the intention to commission a review of the overall number of regulators and regulated professions.

They welcomed the fact that this is being taken forward by an independent party and look forward to feeding in our views.

They did not address the possible removal of the student register but no doubt will in due course.

What will the first sweeping changes to NHS and eye care provision create from the White Paper?

March 2021

Integration and Innovation, the white paper in February is the first serious attempt to reform the Lansley reforms of 2012.

The reforms would allow government to transfer functions at arm's length without primary legislation. So even robust bodies like the CQC and NICE could feel the wind of change or even be closed down.

However the pandemic has shown that intra professional working has proven to bring swifter and in the main harmonious new working practices and pathways often involving cross party actions over a span including primary, secondary and yes even social care.

If these successful actions are the drivers for change then the Integrated Care Systems (ICS) that have been influential in these moves will be heralded as the way forward and may make way for easier negotiations in primary care pathways. That is a hope but the devil is in the detail and only time will tell. The ICS will be given a statutory footing according to the white paper.

Richard Murray, CE of the King's Fund says"By sweeping away clunky competition and procurement rules, these new plans could give the NHS and its partners greater flexibility to deliver joined up care to the increasing numbers of people who rely on multiple different services."

Of course flexibility to some is a free for all to others. But if we truly want to see an end of turf wars between professions and an improvement in patient journeys, as long as safety is sacrosanct, does it matter who does what along a patient pathway?

Rules that have appeared to have made sense in the past have often made electing for a NHS service more difficult. You might be surprised how many direct phone calls PHN receives each week fro m elderly or vunerable patients asking for help in finding Opticians who provide Home Visits in their area.

We try and help but many want an independent practitioner not a large domiciliary company and we struggle as many independents have not informed our education site www.mylocaloptician.co.uk/find that they provide the service. We do go the full mile and contact local independents by phone asking for information, but almost always we are told that no optician wants to, or can afford to do home visits.

As the ICS role will be to look at help in community care and social care this might be one area they could be more flexible in adoption.

NHS England – eye care priorities for 2021/22

In its latest priorities and operational planning guidance, NHS England (NHSE) says it hopes to “reduce variation in access and outcomes”, by maximising elective activity and “taking full advantage of the opportunities to transform the delivery of services”. As part of this initiative, it expects the NHS to “implement whole pathway transformations and thereby improve performance” in “eye care with support via the National Pathway Improvement Programme”.

Its implementation guidance sets out how NHSE plans to shift some of its direct commissioning functions to new Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). Although NHSE is still consulting on legislative change proposals, it “anticipates” ICSs will take on general ophthalmic commissioning from 1 April 2022 onwards.

What FODO says:

David Hewlett of FODO said: “FODO and every other optical body has stressed the importance of preserving the national sight testing and case finding service and infrastructure on public health grounds.”

He added: “Irrespective of where in the system contracts are held, the priorities for FODO and the other optical bodies , must be to protect choice and access for patients and minimise bureaucracy for primary eye care contractors.”

FODO has also responded to the Health and Select Committee inquiry into healthcare reforms, calling for the national sight-testing and case-finding service to be preserved and patient choice to be strengthened Read FODO response here

Meanwhile like Pandemic Relaxation powers Wales they also make the first moves in eye care reforms and optometry

Following the 11 March announcement of plans to reform eye care services in Wales, the Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, has announced that over £8.5m will be “invested to create a new Electronic Patient Record and digital Electronic Referral system for eye care in Wales”. National digital eye care patient record system.

NHS Wales and the Welsh Government has published "Future approach for optometry services." Pages 38 to 42 provide a good summary table of what the government hopes will be delivered across Level 1 to 4 of the new GOS model.

New AOP Infection control and prevention certificate

March 2021

In response to popular demand, the Association of Optometrists (AOP) is launching a new AOP Infection control and prevention certificate, in association with Optometry Today (OT) and supported by Johnson and Johnson Vision.

More than 4000 AOP members took and passed the certificate last year, which is expertly designed by the AOP clinical team to give optometrists and dispensing opticians, and patients, confidence and reassurance when in practice for routine sight care.

All UK practising and pre-registration AOP members are encouraged to take the certificate, even if they previously completed it in 2020. Updates to the content include the importance of ventilation and air filtration, vaccinations and an update on additional cleaning measures and surface survival of Sars-Cov-2. Qualified optometrists and dispensing opticians can also earn 1 CET point for successful completion.

In the pre-recorded, 45-minute lecture, AOP Clinical Director, Dr Peter Hampson, explains how to protect staff and patients in optometric practice during the coronavirus pandemic. He looks at how the virus is spread and how to control this, for example, by screening patients for symptoms, handwashing, social distancing, correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE), methods of cleaning, disinfection and sterilisation.

After watching the lecture in full, members will be directed to complete a series of related multiple-choice questions (MCQs). Members can then download a paper certificate from MyAOP/CET, which they can personalise with a practice logo, to display on a practice wall or show to an employer.

CUES – filling the gaps a year on ~ advice from LOCSU

March 2021

Zoe Richmond, LOCSU Interim Clinical Director said: “Within CUES many people aren’t actually ‘seen’ at all but are offered immediate advice and support without the need for a face-to-face appointment. A significant number of people presenting with urgent eye care symptoms are fully managed in this remote way.”

When it was first published, the COVID-19 Urgent eyecare service (CUES) pathway was promoted for the immediate crisis; to help ensure timely access to urgent and emergency eye care in a “COVID-safe” way, without the need to travel to a hospital or, in some cases, even leave home.

However, it was always intended that CUES would also deliver against the NHS long term plan objectives and be a fit for the future, a future without COVID but where urgent eyecare is still delivered locally, optimising the existing workforce across the eye care pathway and reducing the need to travel to a hospital.

Read more

New Council members welcomed at College AGM

March 2021

The College of Optometrists welcomed eight new Council members at its AGM on 23 March. The AGM, which took place as part of Optometry Tomorrow Bitesize 2021, was held virtually because of restrictions in place due to COVID-19.

College President, Colin Davidson FCOptom, said; “I would like to warmly welcome our new Council members. The College Council ensures that we remain true to our principles and accountable to our members, and we rely on them to act as ambassadors for their region, so it is vital that we have engaged Council members who are rooted in the profession. I would like to thank our dedicated outgoing Council members for their hard work, particularly during the last year when their input has been so important as we navigated the pandemic.”

The newly elected College Council members are; David Hill MCOptom (Eastern), John Kidd MCoptom (Eastern), Keziah Latham FCOptom (Eastern), Jay Varia MCOptom (London), Katie Curran MCOptom (Northern Ireland), Lewes James Hambrey MCOptom (South West), Jagdeep Singh MCOptom (West Midlands) and Paul Appleson MCOptom (Yorkshire and Humber)

Following the election process, two Council members retained their seats, they are; Irene Ctori MCOptom (London) and Johnathan Waugh MCOptom (Scotland).

New Council member Lewes James Hambrey MCOptom said; “I am excited to join the Council at a time when optometry is evolving to meet the demands of a changing world, and am grateful for the opportunity to represent fellow professionals. Optometrists have exceptional skills that must be recognised and respected, and I look forward to working with other members of the College to encourage collaboration and provide the profession with a successful future.”

Nine members of Council ended their tenure at the AGM; Parth Shah MCOptom (Eastern), Deepali Modha MCOptom (Eastern), Peter Allen FCOptom (Eastern), Joy Myint FCOptom (London), Lorcan Butler MCOptom (Northern Ireland), Stephanie Campbell MCOptom (South West), Prab Boparai MCOptom (West Midlands), Aleksandra Mankowska MCOptom (Yorkshire and Humber) and Eddie Pigott MCOptom (South East).

Several other appointments were also announced at the AGM; Dr Tony Gibson FCOptom was elected as Treasurer, Mike Horler FCOptom was co-opted to the Council as a representative for the South East region. Four new members to the Board of Trustees were also announced; Kyla Black MCOptom, Dr Irene Ctori MCOptom, Professor Kathryn Saunders FCOptom and Johnathan Waugh MCOptom.

CQC Consultation on changes for more flexible and responsive regulation

March 2021

Following on from the consultation on the CQC's new strategy and ambitions launched earlier in January, they’re proposing some specific changes that will enable them to deal with ongoing challenges from the pandemic and move them towards their ambition to be a more dynamic, proportionate and flexible regulator.

They say:

Our inspection reports and ratings give a view of quality that’s vital for the public, service providers and stakeholders. In this second consultation we are proposing some changes to allow us to assess and rate services more flexibly, so we can update our ratings more often in a more responsive and proportionate way. The changes will make ratings easier to understand for everyone.

In the consultation document, we also set out how we’ll engage with all our stakeholders in the future when we make changes to the way we regulate.

This consultation will close at 5.00pm on Tuesday 23 March 2021.

We’re making changes so that we can regulate in a more flexible and responsive way.

Tell us what you think

You can also feedback through our digital engagement platform, Citizenlab.

Still more pain with e-GOS delays

March 2021

PCSE sorry about e-GOS system delays

Primary Care Support England (PCSE) apologised this week about repeated issues users have experienced when using PCSE online to process e-GOS.

PCSE said it was working to restore a normal service as soon as possible. It has not yet provided any detail on the cause of the technical issues but said it would keep all users up to date with developments.

GOC launches 2021 registrant survey

March 2021

The GOC has launched its registrant survey 2021.

It hopes the study will provide valuable insights into the profession and improve the way it regulates.

The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete and closes on 12 April 2021. People who take part have an opportunity to win £100.

Take part in the GOC Survey HERE

FODO supports whistleblowing and speaking up guidance in DOCET podcast

March 2021

FODO Group Director David Hewlett discusses the concepts of Speaking Up and whistleblowing in a podcast.

Optometrists can gain a CET point by listening to this free DOCET podcast and completing a simple exercise.

This week, FODO also submitted a response to the GOC consultation on its draft Speaking Up guidance.

FODO welcomed the guidance and provided feedback on other steps that could be taken to support raising concerns and speaking up.

Hear the podcast here

Voting opens for the 2021 elections of AOP Council

March 2021

Voting for the Association of Optometrists (AOP) Council elections opens on Friday 12 March.

All eligible AOP members in the seven contested geographical constituencies are being invited to cast their vote by Friday 26 March.

Chair of AOP Council, Mike George, explained how the Council serves the profession: “As a Councillor you gain a wider world view of optometry – it makes you much more aware of the possibilities when caring for patients. But the role is also about bringing your experiences, so the AOP has the depth of knowledge about what’s going on in the optical profession across the whole of the UK”. Vice-Chair, Julie-Anne Little agreed, saying: “Councillors bring the daily life of optometry to Council – sharing viewpoints and challenges from their local areas so we can tackle these issues together.”

Encouraging members to take part, Henrietta Alderman, AOP Chief Executive, said: “Each Councillor plays an essential role in helping the AOP lead change in a way that represents our members’ interests. The Council’s work is centred on rebuilding a better future in optics, particularly at this time. If your constituency is being contested, take the time to find out who your candidates are, read their pledges and make the choice for you and your area.”

Geographical positions being contested in this year’s election are Scotland, North West England, Yorkshire & the Humber, the East Midlands, the West Midlands, South East England, and London. Members in these areas will be sent an email from the AOP’s election partners, Civica, on Friday 12 March, containing a unique voting link.

The successful candidates will join Council members from the remainder of the UK, and appointed Councillors representing different segments of the profession, to form the AOP’s Council. The new AOP Council members will be announced in the week commencing 3 May 2021 and their first Council meeting will be Wednesday 9 June, which will be held virtually.

NHS ENGLAND Rejects Support Proposal for struggling practices

March 2021

OFNC Stats Several weeks ago the OFNC put clear proposals to NHS England for support for optical practices struggling in the latest round of lockdown restrictions.

Many in the sector had responded to our call for evidence on the impact of the new lockdown, demonstrating that targeted support was needed. We proposed a targeted safety net scheme to support practices which had seen a fall of 50% or more in GOS activity. We also proposed continued top-up support for domiciliary providers which have continued to struggle to access patients, particularly in care homes.

On 4 March NHS England told us no further financial support will be made available to practices at present. It gave two reasons for this. One is that its monthly GOS claims data (left) is showing relatively stable activity in January and February 2021.
The other is that the additional support offered in autumn 2020 to some fixed practices in areas of deprivation was taken up by fewer than 200 practices, suggesting limited demand for further help.

We reject both these arguments, and we know the profession will be aggrieved at this decision. It shows a lack of regard for the small number of practices that still need help, having struggled to continue to meet eye care needs and provide frontline services throughout the pandemic.

The GOS claims data only gives an aggregate picture. It includes payments for previous months submitted on paper forms, and is distorted by the rollout of eGOS. NHS England accepts that despite the positive picture painted by the data, many practices can show they are suffering from a significant reduction in demand for face-to-face care – but it is not willing to help.

We also strongly disagree with NHS England’s interpretation of the low uptake for the autumn 2020 support. We had warned at the time that the complex and restrictive criteria for the support would be a barrier to take-up. That support was also offered in very different circumstances - with lighter lockdown restrictions in most parts of England, without the strong “stay home” messaging from Government that has affected patient confidence since January, and with a more positive outlook for an end to the crisis. However, it provided an important safety net which supported some 200 practices and their patients.

As we have repeatedly explained to NHS England, our proposal for further safety net support would not be needed by many practices, but would enable those needing help to keep their doors open to meet their patients’ needs close to home.

Unfortunately, NHS England has now made it clear that it is not willing to take these negotiations any further at this time.

We know this will be a blow for the whole sector, and bitterly disappointing news to practices that may now have to reduce their operating hours or turn away patients they have supported throughout the pandemic.

Despite this, we will continue to meet with NHS England to review the impact of the pandemic on activity levels and other data, and to monitor the need for future support for practices for the benefit of patients, the public and the sector.

Changes to PPE reimbursement scheme system in NI and also deadlines very close

March 2021

The Department of Health (DoH) is changing its PPE scheme to a self-procurement model with reimbursement.

The DoH has made funding available to reimburse primary care optometry practices for PPE procured for use in providing services to HSCNI patients for the period October 2020 to March 2021.

DoH funding for PPE will be capped at £1.28 per service occurrence, and claims will be paid upon production of receipts and validation of activity for the period in question.

The claim form for PPE costs against activity from October to December 2020 must be submitted no later than Friday 12 March 2021.

PPE Activity from January to March 2021 must be submitted no later than Friday 30 April 2021.

HSCB has stated that late claims will not be processed.

GOC suspends Glasgow based optometrist

March 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Uzma Afzal, an optometrist based in Glasgow, from its register for six months.

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

This is in relation to her failing to carry out adequate eye tests, falsifying records and failing to maintain adequate records.

Ms Afzal has until 15 March 2021 to appeal her suspension.

College President comments on the Education Strategic Review, published this week

February 2021

Colin Davidson, President, College of Optometrists comments on the Education Strategic Review.

Story originally published here

“As part of its Education Strategic Review, begun in 2015, the GOC has now approved the new threshold requirements for registration as a dispensing optician or optometrist. The College supports the clear direction that the new learning outcomes provide, including that the new threshold for registration as an optometrist should be at Master’s degree level.

“The challenge now is to establish the detail of how the ESR is implemented, to achieve a safe transition to new arrangements. The planned tight timeframe for implementing the ESR and the lack of clarity on funding arrangements remain causes for concern.

“The College will use its expertise and experience, including from delivering the Scheme for Registration and final independent prescriber exam and its established independent assessor and examiner networks, to play a leading role in the updated education provision for the profession.

“As the professional body for optometry, the College will work closely with all stakeholders to ensure the highest professional standards in qualifying the profession continue to be upheld. We will also seek to ensure that the GOC’s new outcomes, standards and QAE approach support the development and expansion of the profession’s role, influence and contribution to patient care.”

CCEHC makes recommendations for children who have missed out on vision screening due to COVID-19.

February 2021

Recommendations for the Immediate Management of the Child Vision Screening Backlog for 2019/20 and 2020/21 in EnglandShare options


COVID-19 has caused major interruptions in education and child health services. This has meant that Child Vision Screening services have been delayed, postponed or cancelled for some of the children who started Reception Year in 2019 (and possibly some who started in 2020), resulting in a backlog of children who have not been screened.

The primary aim of Child Vision Screening is to identify all children aged 4 to 5 years with impaired sight and enable timely intervention.

The Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning (CCEHC) is aware of a number of issues around restoring and providing these screening services in England.

It recognises that the immediate and current challenge is the timely management of the backlog of children who have missed their screening opportunity at school; and that the priority is to put in place measures for children who commenced Reception year in 2019/20.

As a means for managing this backlog, the CCEHC has made recommendations for alternative, failsafe arrangements for these children to have their vision tested:

CCEHC Recommendations for the Immediate Management of the Child Vision Screening Backlog in England

Template for Letter to Parents

These recommend that parents should be advised to arrange for a NHS sight test with a local optometrist of their choice, if their child entered Reception in 2019 and has not yet been screened at school. The Council is also calling for good liaison between all those involved in Child Vision Screening (i.e. Screening Providers, Local Optical Committee clinical leads, Specialist Eye Service Provider’s Orthoptic / Optometric leads and Screening Service Commissioners) , for planning and implementing these failsafe recommendations and ensuring that eligible children are identified, tested and appropriately managed until routine screening services are restored.

Full details of the recommendations can be found here:

CCEHC Recommendations for Vision Screening backlog 2021

CCEHC child vision screening 2021 -Template letter to parents published here:

Letterhead of Screening Provider

Date -- / -- / 2021

Dear Parent/Guardian [ of Child’s name ]
RE: Child Vision Screening (ages 4 to 5 years)

In many schools children in Reception Year (aged 4-5 years) will have their vision checked through Child Vision Screening. However, Covid-19 has caused major interruptions in education and child health services. This has meant that the vision screening services have been delayed, postponed or cancelled for some of the children who started Reception Year in 2019.
Children often cope very well with some eye problems which need to be identified and treated early to avoid lifelong visual loss. For this reason, it is important that even children with apparently normal vision should be tested. The screening assessment ensures that your child has good vision in both eyes, and that their vision is developing normally. It is performed at this age so that any reduced vision or difference in vision between each eye can be picked up before the visual system is fully developed and any treatment necessary can be started.
If your child falls in any of the groups below then you do not need to do anything. You should ignore this letter if your child -
• Has already had a vision test at school
Or
• Is currently under the care of an Ophthalmologist / Orthoptist / Optometrist at your local Hospital Eye Clinic
Or
• Is currently under the care of a local Optometrist (Optician) or had a recent sight test
If none of the above applies, please arrange with your local optometry practice (optician) for your child to have a free NHS sight test.
Please telephone the practice to book an appointment. You may have to wait a few weeks before an appointment can be offered. You will not have to pay for the sight test.
We recommend your child has this sight test in case she/he has a problem which requires treatment. Young children rarely complain about having reduced vision. If only one eye is affected it is even less likely to be noticed by the child, parents or anyone else. A sight test will identify any problems. The optometrist (optician) will be able to explain the results and any next steps with you during the sight test.

For further information, please visit www.nhs.uk/childrens-eyes

ENDS

HCPC publishes report on the professions it regulates and the unregulated expansion of advanced care.

February 2021

The Health Care and Professions Council (HCPC) regulates fifteen different professions; some of these are large groups like Physiotherapists and some are much smaller such as Speech and Language Therapists (SLT).

Most of the people registered by the HCPC work within their own areas of clinical expertise and defined professional scope of practice. However, an increasing number of registrants are undertaking new or additional roles beyond the traditional scope of practice for the defined profession.

These roles are often shared with other medical or health professionals and persons undertaking these roles are often, but not consistently, referred to as Advanced Practitioners.

The HCPC regulates:

Arts Therapists, Biomedical Scientist, Chiropodist/Podiatrist, Clinical Scientist, Dietitian,  Hearing Aid Dispenser,  Occupational Therapist,  Operating Department Practitioner,  Orthoptist,  Paramedic,  Physiotherapist,  Practitioner Psychologist,  Prosthetist/Orthotist,  Radiographer Speech and Language Therapist 

Despite the increase in the undertaking of these advanced roles often occuring because of a proven need in health care, the HCPC states there is no clear evidence, based on the findings of this research, that additional regulation of advanced level practice is needed, or desired, to protect the public.

However, as the HCPC is one of the few organisations with a UK wide remit, it may have a central role in achieving unification across the 4 nations in relation to the future role expectations, educational standards, and governance of advanced level practice.

Ed. It is noticed that less than 3% of the 1500 registered Orthoptists responded to this report which you can read here. The pandemic has no doubt increased this rise in scope of practice and much of this is to be congratulated in seeing primary care professionals work in teams and not silos. Whilst the HCPC might consider its future role in reporting these advances let us hope that it doesn't consider additional regulation which once again will slow the expansion of corroboration between professionals and create yet more turf wars.

AOP responds to NHS reform announcement

February 2021

The Government’s reform plans for the NHS in England, which represent the most significant changes in a decade, offer opportunities for optometry but also carry some risks.

The AOP flagged these in January in our response to the most recent NHS England consultation, and will continue to work with others in the sector to pursue the opportunities and manage the risks.

AOP Clinical Director, Dr Peter Hampson explains: “A major upside is the shift in local commissioning from relatively small Clinical Commissioning Groups to the larger footprint of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) – this should open the way for extended eyecare services, delivered in optometry practices, to be commissioned on a wider scale, as we have long called for.”

Dr Hampson highlights a recent example of the benefits of extended services: “The development of the new Coronavirus Urgent Eyecare Service (CUES) in England last year is the most recent example of how optometrists and dispensing opticians can take on wider clinical roles and relieve pressure on other parts of the NHS.”

Illustrating the opportunities, Dr Hampson said: “Eyecare is at the forefront of NHS England’s current outpatient transformation programme, and this together with the new reforms should create exciting new clinical opportunities for the AOP’s members. Optometrists and dispensing opticians will need to get involved in the governance of ICSs, usually through their LOC, to make sure their patients’ needs are heard and understood.”

“One risk that the sector will need to continue to watch closely is that the commissioning of the GOS contract in England – the bedrock of NHS eyecare – could move to ICSs. This would create extra cost and complexity but do nothing to help patients. NHS England’s recommendations for legislative change, published alongside the White Paper on Thursday, confirmed the NHS’s continued commitment to national contractual arrangements across the primary care contractor professions. The sector will need to ensure GOS remains national” Dr Hampson explains.

FODO to look at new future regulations in Primary Care being considered in Government White paper

February 2021

The proposed reforms cover (see last weeks General News) significant changes to procurement regulations and competition rules in the NHS in England and provisions for ‘Henry VIII powers’ for the Secretary of State to make changes to professional regulation across the UK using regulations rather than acts of Parliament.

In a follow-up to the White Paper, NHS England has launched a consultation on procurement regulations changes, setting out plans for a new NHS provider selection regime. The FODO policy team is analysing proposals on behalf of members and the wider sector.

The DHSC plans to work with devolved administrations and consult on proposals to increase flexibility in professional regulation, which would make it easier for lawmakers to remove professions from regulation and merge or close regulatory bodies. There are plans to consult on these proposals soon.

College of Optometrists updates Guidance for Professional Practice

February 2021

The College of Optometrists has reviewed and updated its Guidance for Professional Practice. This is part of a routine update, which takes place every three years, to ensure it reflects advancements in technology, the current evidence base, new and revised legislation and wider cultural changes.

The latest update provides clarification and stronger guidance on a zero-tolerance policy of abuse toward optometrists and practice staff, with an emphasis on employers to provide protections against this type of behaviour. It includes new sections on:

• imaging
• needs-led examination
• examining patients with hearing loss
• examining patients with autism.

The update also indicates where optometrists should look for the latest COVID-19 guidance, and links them directly to the relevant information for their nation.

The College of Optometrists’ Director of Policy and Strategy, Sarah Cant, said: “The Guidance for Professional Practice is the cornerstone of good optometric practice, across primary and secondary care. We have reviewed it to ensure that it is up-to-date and reflects current regulations and good practice guidelines, so that optometrists are best supported with clinical, professional and ethical decisions. We know that the Guidance is just as important for our members during the pandemic, so we have added links to this edition to help join up the foundations of practice with COVID-19 guidance.”

All optometrists can access the Guidance at www.college-optometrists.org/guidance. Alternatively, the Guidance is available through the College’s member app, which members can download on all Apple and Android devices. The app also features Clinical Management Guidelines with images and the Optometrists’ Formulary.

The College is hosting a member webinar to discuss the changes to the Guidance and how they will affect optometrists in practice. The webinar takes place today Thursday 11 February from 7.30pm. It is hosted by the College’s Clinical Advisers Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom and Dr Paramdeep Bilkhu MCOptom. Members can book on the College website.

ABDO responds to GOC New Training Requirements

February 2021

Responding to the approval by the General Optical Council (GOC) of new standards for qualification providers and new outcomes for students to achieve in order to register as a dispensing optician or optometrist, the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) welcomed the GOC’s decision that all qualifications for dispensing opticians should be at the same academic level as ABDO’s Level 6 Diploma in Ophthalmic Dispensing.

Commenting on this decision, ABDO CEO Sir Anthony Garrett said that:

“I am delighted the GOC has recognised that ABDO’s Level 6 Diploma in Ophthalmic Dispensing, with its degree-level learning, provides the right benchmark for entry to the profession, particularly given the demand for dispensing opticians to develop their roles to help meet patients’ ever-expanding need for high-quality eye care.”

ABDO also welcomed the GOC’s acceptance of its argument that to ensure consistently high standards of education, there should be greater detail in the new outcomes for registration on the clinical skills and knowledge required of newly-qualified practitioners, and recognition of the distinct roles and expertise of dispensing opticians and optometrists.

ABDO expressed support for the GOC’s intention to commission ‘indicative documents’ that will provide additional information about the content of programmes leading to registration as a dispensing optician or optometrist. Requiring qualification providers to follow these indicative documents, or explain why they have not done so, will help to ensure consistent high standards, while still allowing scope for innovation.

Given that the outcomes for registration and indicative documents are mutually interdependent, however, it will be important – as the GOC has now acknowledged – to review the outcomes once the indicative documents have been produced.

There remain significant risks associated with moving to the new standards and outcomes, not least in relation to the costs of implementing and operating the new system. ABDO welcomed therefore the GOC’s intention to keep its impact assessment up-to-date, and to ensure that its approach to quality assurance is consistent and proportionate, and minimises the overall burden of regulation.

As implementation of the new system now begins, effective engagement with stakeholders will be vital and ABDO looks forward to working with the GOC to address the strategic and technical issues that will arise.

GOC Council approves new education and training requirements for dispensing opticians and optometrists

February 2021

The Council of the General Optical Council (GOC) has approved new education and training requirements for GOC approved qualifications leading to registration as a dispensing optician or optometrist.

These will replace the current Education Quality Assurance Handbooks for optometry (2015) and ophthalmic dispensing (2011) and will ensure that all dispensing opticians and optometrists are equipped to deliver eye-care services in a rapidly changing landscape and meet the needs of patients in the future.

The requirements, which are a result of an Education Strategic Review (ESR), were approved at the public Council meeting on Wednesday 10 February 2021 and are outlined in three documents:

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

• Standards for Approved Qualifications, which outline 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 describe how the GOC proposes to gather evidence to decide whether a qualification meets the Outcomes for Registration and Standards for Approved

Qualifications, in accordance with the Opticians Act.

Key changes include:

• More focus on the development of professional capability, a combination of critical thinking, clinical-reasoning and decision-making which are vital to ensure optical students can respond and engage to changing patient needs and up-to-date, research-informed clinical practice.

• A candidate on their journey to registration will acquire a single qualification approved by the GOC, rather than the two qualifications, which are currently required for the majority of candidates.

• Qualifications must integrate 48 weeks learning and experience in practice, which will help build professional confidence, effective communication and professionalism to prepare students for broader and more varied clinical roles.

• Qualifications will need to be either an academic award or a regulated qualification. For the first time, qualifications in optometry will have a specified minimum Regulated Qualification Framework (RQF) of level 7; and for dispensing opticians, this has been increased from level 5 to level 6.

The requirements are underpinned by extensive research and consultation including a pivotal piece of co-commissioned research by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), a public consultation (July – October 2020) by Enventure Research Ltd and The University of Manchester’s Delphi verification research.

Throughout the review, the GOC worked with its Expert Advisory Groups (EAGs), consisting of experts from across the sector.

GOC Council Chair, Gareth Hadley OBE, said: “I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to shaping our proposals and to assure that we will continue to work closely with our stakeholders as we implement the changes. We value all of the feedback we’ve received over the years to ensure our requirements are fit for purpose and reflect the changing landscape of the optical sector, not least as a result of the COVID-19 emergency.

The new requirements mark the most fundamental change for over 35 years in the way optometrists and dispensing opticians are prepared for entry to our register and they will have direct and lasting positive impacts on patient care and safety. The qualifications will also give greater assurance that our requirements are being met and risks are being managed, therefore continuing patient and public confidence in our ability to maintain and monitor high standards.”

From March 2021, the GOC will work with each provider of GOC approved and provisionally approved qualifications to understand at what pace they will wish to adapt their existing qualifications or develop new ones.

The GOC will also be communicating with its stakeholders, including registrants, education providers and students to outline how these changes will affect them. It is anticipated that most education providers will work towards admitting students to approved qualifications that meet the new Outcomes and Standards from the 2023/24 or 2024/25 academic year.

The final set of documents can be found in the Council papers and will be published officially in due course.

The Council meeting marks the final meeting for Council Chair Gareth Hadley OBE and the newly appointed Chair, Dr Anne Wright CBE, will commence on 18 February 2021.

GOC announces Dr Anne Wright CBE as new Chair of Council

February 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC) has announced Dr Anne Wright CBE as Chair of Council. Dr Wright will follow Gareth Hadley OBE who has been Chair for eight years.

Dr Anne Wright CBE
Dr Wright is an experienced Chief Executive and Chair, with a strong regulatory background. She was Chair of the National Lottery Commission for eight years until 2013, and a Member of the Bar Standards Board from 2012 to 2017.

Her most recent appointment was as Member and Lay Vice-Chair of the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Her career in higher education led to appointment as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sunderland from 1990 to 1998. She was awarded the CBE in 1997 for services to higher education.

Dr Wright’s other non-executive roles have included the School Teachers Review Body and the Armed Forces Pay Review Body.

Dr Wright CBE said: “I am delighted to have been appointed as the Chair of the GOC. With transformative projects such as the Education Strategic Review and the introduction of a new Continuing Professional Development model as well as future legislative reform, it is an exciting time to be joining the Council.

I look forward to working with my fellow Council members, staff and stakeholders to deliver the highest standards of public protection.”
Outgoing Chair, Gareth Hadley OBE, said: “I am pleased to be handing over my role to Anne, whose leadership and experience will be incredibly useful in guiding the GOC to achieve its vision of being recognised for delivering world-class regulation and excellent customer service.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time as GOC Chair and I am proud of what we have accomplished. As sad as I am to be going, I know the GOC will be in safe hands. I look forward to seeing what Anne will achieve during her tenure.”



Gareth led the GOC throughout various achievements, including the launches of the Education Strategic Review and the Continuing Education and Training Review, and the introduction of new Standards of Practice for optometrists and dispensing opticians, students, and optical businesses.

Dr Wright will take up her appointment on 18 February 2021.

AOP opens nominations for new Council representatives in 2021

February 2021

Practitioners and students are being invited by the Association of Optometrists (AOP) to put themselves forward as AOP Council representatives.

AOP Councillors ensure that views from around the UK and within the profession are represented in the AOP’s policy making.

Speaking about the importance of AOP members getting involved in the elections, Mike George, Chair of AOP Council, encouraged members to "Rise above the social media noise and help to shape the future of our profession with evidence, consideration and healthy debate on the AOP Council.”

Henrietta Alderman, AOP Chief Executive, further expanded by saying: “our sector, like many others, faces challenges to mend and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The AOP’s strength lies in its membership, from a range of backgrounds, having a voice to ensure we are leading change that is representative and rebuilds a better future in optics.”

Alongside the 12 elected UK posts being contested across the UK in 2021, 14 designated positions representing practitioners working in core areas of practice, undergraduate students and pre-registration optometrists are open for application.

All eligible members of all grades are encouraged to put themselves forward from Wednesday 10 February, before the nomination period closes on Monday 1 March.

Voting for elected positions will be open from 12 March and 26 March, and all eligible AOP members will be invited to vote. The appointed candidates for designated positions will be chosen by the AOP
Appointments Committee. The results will be announced in May.

For more information, including the role of Councillors and the election timeline, visit the AOP Website

GOC suspends London based optometrist

February 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Ajay Patel, an optometrist based in London, from its register for twelve months.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found his fitness to practise impaired by reason of misconduct. This is in relation to his failing to refer a patient for appropriate treatment, communicate effectively with the patient, and maintain adequate records.

Mr Patel has until 9 February 2021 to appeal his suspension.

OFNC February Update

February 2021

The OFNC reported in their statement of 8 January that the OFNC was in urgent discussions with NHS England about potential additional support for optical practices affected by the new restrictions.

They have proposed potential models for this to NHS England and discussions are ongoing.

They report:

This week NHS England were able to share with us the GOS claims data for January 2021, which are a combination of real-time eGOS claims and paper claims. Taken together they suggest slightly lower overall GOS activity in January 2021 than in January 2020. Although this is a broad-brush picture based on aggregate data, we accept that the trend over the 10 months since the pandemic hit does not provide a strong case for generalised COVID-19 support across all GOS contractors at this point.

However, many practices have contacted OFNC member bodies calling for help as they are suffering a sharp downturn in demand for face-to-face care. This is because of the current restrictions, the Government’s strong ‘stay at home’ messaging and the prospect of vaccination encouraging people to postpone care. Some are reporting activity at 50% or less of the usual level for January.

We are therefore urging NHS England as a matter of urgency to put in place some targeted, short-term financial support for practices experiencing a significant downturn in face-to-face activity and struggling to remain operational. We will provide a further update as soon as we can.

In the meantime we are pleased that the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out for patient-facing staff in optical practices and domiciliary providers is making good progress. Any GOS contractor experiencing difficulty in arranging vaccinations for their staff should contact their Local Optical Committee for assistance in the first instance.

GOC suspends London based student optometrist

February 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Lukshana Jeyaruban, a student optometrist based in London, from its register for six months.

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

This is in relation to her submission of a dissertation in the knowledge that it had been drafted by another person, and her conduct was dishonest and amounted to plagiarism.

Ms Jeyaruban has until 8 February 2021 to appeal her suspension.

GOC erases Shropshire based dispensing optician

February 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to erase Timothy Vanes, a dispensing optician based in Shropshire, from its register with immediate effect.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found his fitness to practise impaired on grounds of public protection and public interest. This is in relation to his convictions of making indecent photographs (Categorys A+ published by GOC and of possessing extreme pornographic images of actions as published by GOC*)

*PHN has on request of some readers removed the detailed information provided by the GOC for publication.

For the full announcement from the GOC you can find it on their site here


Mr Vanes has until 4 February 2021 to appeal his erasure.

PSA to appeal GOC Honey Rose decision

February 2021

The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has filed an appeal against the GOC Fitness to Practise Committee’s decision to suspend Ms Honey Rose for a period of nine months.

The PSA said it was concerned “that the decision was not sufficient to protect the public” and that it had now referred the matter to the High Court. The PSA has asked “members of the press and public to respect the privacy of Ms Rose and the family of Patient A whilst these proceedings are ongoing”.

The Authority has filed an appeal against the decision of the Fitness to Practise Committee of the General Optical Council (‘the Committee’) to suspend Ms Honey Rose for a period of nine months, having found her, in summary, guilty of failing to carry out adequate eye examinations in respect of two children, Patients A and B, and dishonestly making an inaccurate and misleading record in relation to her examination of Patient A. The Committee decided not to order a review of the Registrant before the end of the period of suspension.

The Authority has referred the matter to the High Court due to its concern that the decision was not sufficient to protect the public. Specifically, the Authority is of the view that the General Optical Council failed to properly charge Ms Rose with certain allegations, the Committee took the wrong approach to impairment and sanction, and the Committee wrongly decided not to require a review before the conclusion of the period of suspension. Accordingly, the Authority is asking the Court to quash the findings made by the Committee in relation to misconduct, impairment and sanction, and remit the case back to the Committee for reconsideration. Information about the Authority’s power to appeal decisions made by regulatory bodies can be found on our website.

The Authority asks members of the press and public to respect the privacy of Ms Rose and the family of Patient A whilst these proceedings are ongoing. In accordance with its usual practice, the Authority will not be providing any further comment on the proceedings during this time.

GOC Response to appeal

We are aware that the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has referred the case of the GOC against Honey Rose, as considered by our independent Fitness to Practise Committee (FtPC), to the High Court, under its powers under the NHS Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002. We cannot comment on ongoing cases and we will cooperate fully with the PSA during this process.

New Covid-19 guidance from the College of Optometrists

February 2021

The College of Optometrists has launched new tools and guidance to support effective remote triage during this phase of the pandemic.

This includes new prioritisation guidance, a flow chart and a risk stratification tool.

The College has also written the open letter published below to all primary eye care providers in the UK.

It reiterates general Covid-19 and IPC guidance and has been sent to all practices, not just those where there may be concerns with compliance.

College Open Letter

Following the national lockdowns announced in Scotland and England at the beginning of the month, and earlier lockdowns in Wales and Northern Ireland, some members of The College of Optometrists have been
in contact with us to express concerns that their employers are not following the College’s amber phase guidance or other national guidance on good clinical practice.

While it has been made clear by all UK health authorities that primary care can continue, the College’s amber phase guidance does not mean business as usual.
The safety of both practice staff and patients is paramount. Employers have a duty of care to staff and patients, and we would expect all practices to review their procedures to ensure that care is delivered in
the safest way possible, and is compliant with both the College and relevant national and local guidance.


In particular, practices should:

• prioritise emergency/urgent and essential care on a needs- and symptoms-led basis, as determined
by an optometrist

• only see patients for routine care if there is capacity to do so and if it is in their best interests, and
considering their risk of COVID-19 infection

• provide remote optometrist-led patient triage, to ascertain those who need face-to-face care and
those who can be managed remotely

• offer to defer routine appointments to asymptomatic patients at highest risk of COVID-19

• offer remote care, including dispensing, whenever possible

• maintain infection prevention and control (IPC) procedures and social distancing in practices, and
provide optometrists with suitable time between appointments to carry out IPC

• avoiding online booking unless suitable triage is in place to prioritise patients based on optical
need, and to screen them for symptoms of COVID-19

• give all staff the opportunity to update their individual COVID-19 risk assessment if they feel their
situation has changed and put in place suitable mitigations as needed.

It is key that optometrists are enabled to use their clinical judgement to assess and triage patients’ needs prior to their appointment and supported to manage them in the safest way possible. We are advising all
members who raise concerns about employers with us to notify their practice manager or professional services teams, following their practice’s ‘raising a concern’ procedure.

We ask that employers make clear the route for staff to raise their concerns if they believe that guidelines aren’t been followed, and encourage a culture where clinical staff feel safe and supported to do so.  

ENDS

Whilst there are a minority of clinicians and businesses that are not College members: Dispensing Opticians' practices and Corporate ownership the message is clearly aimed at those who work in practice despite ownership and management.

The tightening of the nuances from the College on its Amber phase will assist the GOC under pressure with the ongoing petition by The OPG as well as going someway to appease the commercial/professional balance redress argued by the AIO.

It will be interesting to watch out for the membership bodies’ responses to their members, many not being College Members.

Here is the COVID-19 Pandemic Amber Phase - Patient prioritisation flowchart

For official Covid-19 guidance from UK health authorities that covers primary eye care, here are the useful links for each devolved country:

The latest advice from the NHS/health service is below:

England. Refer to NHS England’s Covid-19 page for optical settings

Scotland. Read the latest PCAs. NHS Scotland also published this guide to the NHS service in January

Wales. Read the Chief Optometric Adviser’s October letter

Northern Ireland. Refer to the HSCB letter on 8 January 2021

CQC launches Consultation

January 2021

Have your say: how we (the CQC) work

The pandemic has forced everyone in health and social care to think and work in new ways. For CQC, it has sped up the need for us to change.

We’ve launched two consultations to hear your views about how we can do that.

Our new strategy

We want to hear your views on our draft strategy. The strategy sets a bold ambition for CQC over the next five years.

We need to make changes to the way we regulate so that it’s more relevant for providers and for people who use services.

We want to work with health and care services to find solutions to problems and improve outcomes for everyone. We also want to be more flexible to help us manage risk and uncertainty.

We've already had over 10,000 interactions with stakeholders when developing our draft, but we want to hear more.

• CQC strategy consultation
• News story: CQC strategy consultation – we want to hear what you think
• CQC strategy consultation for public stakeholders

Changes for more flexible and responsive regulation

We’re also proposing some specific changes that will help us deal with challenges raised by the pandemic. We want these changes to help us become a more dynamic, proportionate and flexible regulator.

• Consultation on changes for flexible regulation
• News story: CQC launch proposals for more flexible and responsive regulation – we want to hear your views

Read our story on a free webinar from the CQC on Wednesday 10 February 2021 | 10:00 am - 11:15 am GMT In partnership with Bevan Brittan when the CQC wull be providing face to face information

Health and care is changing – CQC’s Strategy Consultation


GOC suspends Birmingham based dispensing optician

January 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to suspend Sarah Morris, a dispensing optician based in Birmingham, from its register for twelve months.

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

This is in relation to her processing false refund transactions on several occasions.

Ms Morris has until 2 February 2021 to appeal her suspension.

New Trustees for ABDO College

January 2021


ABDO College has appointed three new trustees.

The new trustees are as follows:

Les Thomas, a former ABDO College student, is now the learning and development specialist for DOs and CLOs at Boots Opticians. He is also an ABDO practical examiner and practice visitor. He will be replacing Angela McNamee who ends her term as a trustee this month. Les says, “I am so excited to have this opportunity. Since I trained at the college 11 years ago a lot has changed, but the essence of ABDO College has stayed with me my whole working life. It’s an absolutely incredible training facility with amazing lecturers, past and present, and it’s a wonderful venue for the delivery of dispensing training. My only ambition in wanting to become a trustee is to make this amazing college, the best it possibly can be and to support the next generation of dispensing training.”

Claire Walsh FBDO CL SMC(Tech), who has been a college tutor for the past nine years. Claire says, “I’ve been a DO in independent practice for around 25 years, a CLO for 19 years, and SMC(Tech) for about 3 years. I’ve been a supervisor and a distance learning tutor for around 10 years now across several of the available ABDO courses. I am extremely passionate about my profession and tutoring. I love supporting and helping to develop DOs, CLOs and optical support staff. Having a place on the College board seems like the perfect next step! I look forward to working with and supporting the fundamental running of the College. Hopefully, I can add insight from a tutoring and supervisory perspective which, I hope, will aid the continuing success of all courses and a thriving future for the College.”

Helen Wilkinson is a locum dispensing optician. Helen was one of the first graduates of the ABDO College/Canterbury Christ Church University BSc(Hons) degree programme. She has been an ABDO College tutor for 11 years and holds the role of senior tutor. Helen says, “I am proud to have been able to work as a distance learning tutor for ABDO College for several years and to have aided the success of several students working towards their qualifications as dispensing opticians as well as study there myself. It is an honour to have been appointed as a trustee and I am excited to be able to contribute further to the future of our profession and that of the College in this role.”

Claire and Helen replace Kim Devlin and John Hardman who will be retiring as trustees in July.

Sir Anthony Garrett CBE HonFBDO, secretary to the trustees says, “I am delighted that the College Trustees will have the benefit of three excellent new members, all of whom have a significant interest in and involvement with the College. Les, Claire and Helen bring a wide range of skills and experience to the table and I am sure that they will make a significant contribution to the future development of the College in the years ahead. They are replacing three experienced and dedicated trustees who have given great service to the College. I would personally like to thank them for their unstinting support and to thank Angela in particular for her leadership and dedication as chair of the trustees.”

GOC response to petition by OPG outlined in the next story

January 2021

We (the GOC) recognise that these are really challenging times for our registrants who are working on the front line as healthcare professionals delivering the nation’s eye care needs.

The role of the General Optical Council

Determining whether healthcare settings should remain open during the pandemic is a role for national governments working in conjunction with commissioning bodies such as the NHS and health authorities.

Unlike the first lockdown, Government and the NHS has determined that routine primary health care services should remain open during this lockdown. Eye care and routine sight tests are essential public healthcare services, which should continue to be available to access wherever possible, providing it is safe to deliver and there is capacity to do so. We are now at a very different level of preparedness than the first lockdowns in March 2020, with infection control procedures in place, changes to clinical practice now embedded and lateral flow tests and PPE readily available.

The role of the GOC is to ensure that registrants are taking account of this guidance to protect patients, but we do not set the clinical parameters for the guidance and we do not set national government policy in relation to how care is delivered. Clinical guidance on how this care can be delivered safely is the remit of the NHS and sector experts such as The College of Optometrists. We work closely with these organisations to ensure that our registrants are receiving consistent information and taking account of the guidance to protect patients.

We have a shared expectation that this is done in a safe environment for patients and registrants and that our registrants, including businesses, will follow government, public health and professional guidance in doing so and apply professional judgement to particular contexts of practice. We will act where this is not the case.

GOC COVID-19 statements and consultation

We have produced a number of COVID-19 statements intended to support registrants to effectively deliver care during the pandemic. These include proportionate relaxation of regulatory requirements in the public interest, clarification of some areas of our legislation where there has been misunderstanding and enabling the use of remote practice where this can be done safely. We have always acted in good faith to clarify Government and NHS guidance and how it applies to our registrants and will continue to do so.

We have worked with the College and the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) and others to ensure that we provide a consistent message on how our COVID-19 statements apply during the pandemic and as outlined in our recent public consultation (which ended on 7 January), intend to align these with the College framework to ensure clarity for our registrants.

All healthcare regulators needed to act quickly and take urgent decisions related to practice during the pandemic to ensure that care could continue to be delivered to patients safely. We consulted with a range of organisations and stakeholders to get a consensus approach to changes to our advice and guidance in our COVID-19 statements.

GOC representatives meet with a wide range of stakeholders on a regular basis. This includes our business registrants who are a vital stakeholder for us to understand the context of healthcare delivery in our sector. All of our COVID-19 statements were consulted on with the majority of stakeholder representative bodies in the sector and separately signed off by our Council based on this feedback. For transparency, all meetings that a Director or the CEO of the GOC has with stakeholders are declared in reports to Council.

Education Strategic Review (ESR)

The ESR 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 needed to consult during the pandemic 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 was also important that we consulted 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.

It is important to note that we do not have a role in funding or commissioning of services. We are however keen to work with stakeholders to explore ways to secure additional funding for optical education and training. This includes working with all UK governments and Health Education England, the Departments for Education, Health and Social Care.

Conclusion

We acknowledge that the petition calls upon the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) to investigate allegations and we will provide further information on the matter as required. We would always encourage those who have concerns, to raise these directly with us.

Ophthalmic Practitioners' Group has started this petition to Professional Standards Authority and 2 others

January 2021

Following last year's prominent petition over trading and marketing during the first lockdown another has been tabled some 2 weeks ago but has not gained the exposure or the traction of the previous one. (556 Supporters so far)

The OPG argue that:

The General Optical Council's overarching objective is to protect the public. Under the direction of the chair incumbent, the GOC has failed to protect the public, listen to stakeholders and will fail to maintain standards for education if left to their own devices. They have feigned responsibility for their failures and have a history of ignoring the advice of others. We also ask for a suspension to the routine examination of asymptomatic patients and that the Professional Standards Authority investigate our allegations as set out below and if found proved, present a
case to the Privy Council on behalf of the signatories.

Their claims are as follows:

1.1. Guidance delivered by the GOC has brought the profession into disrepute, caused patients to be denied care and resulted in a loss of faith in the GOC's ability to make decisions that support the eyecare needs of the public. In one incident the clear guidance given was to suspend ROUTINE eyecare. Registrants trusted their regulator and stopped providing routine services in a significant number of practices. The GOC was criticised for denying optometric care to a proportion of NHS patients, whilst at the same time suggesting private patients could continue to receive care. This clearly is not protecting the public.
This advice was later described by their own chief executive as having caused “confusion and concerns” amongst registrants.
The backlash caused the AIO to reach out to the GOC to ask for a revised statement. The GOC felt they should clarify their previous guidance. Many registrants however felt the original statement was perfectly clear when it was first delivered and that the GOC was instead backtracking on their error. The resulting suspension had a significant financial impact on those that followed the original advice and led to a denial of service to those who were entitled to an NHS examination. As a result, the GOC HAS brought the profession into disrepute and become its own risk to the public.

https://www.aop.org.uk/ot/professional-support/optical-organisations/2020/06/17/goc-seeks-to-clarify-statement-on-reopening-practices-following-criticism

1.2. In the original GOC/COVID/02 Statement, the GOC issued guidance relating to the supply of contact lenses. In this statement the GOC gave practitioners the autonomy to decide whether to issue contact lenses on expired specifications. Additional guidance also given removed the barrier of verifying the specification. This is contrary to the Opticians Act and was not approved by a quorum of two from the Privy Council. On this change the GOC suggested powers had been granted by a joint regulatory statement. As far as we are aware, the Opticians Act does not recognise joint regulatory statements as a means to modify the Act. Questionable responses followed from many professional bodies including but not limited to the British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) and the Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO). This resulted in the unlawful sale of contact lenses by registrants who acted in good faith that the GOC’s word was law. This was and is a public health risk and now places the GOC in a position in which resulting concerns cannot be investigated without hypocrisy.

1.3. The GOC is quick to delegate responsibility to a number of bodies who are issuing conflicting advice, including the College of Optometrists, the Association of Optometrists, NHS England and
the Optometric Fees Negotiation Committee (OFNC). This has resulted in:

(a) mass confusion over how much contact time a practitioner should have with a patient, with the AOP suggesting at least an hour and the College of Optometrists suggesting as little time as possible;

(b) unenforceable guidance that puts the onus on businesses to train optometrists on infection control (which they are not qualified to do) and to supply their clinicians with PPE. Unfortunately businesses are not required to register with the GOC. This, and in combination with the lack of supplies, meant that the workforce was underprepared and undertrained.

(c) the GOC advising practitioners to follow the College of Optometrists 'Red-Amber-Green traffic light system'. There was a consultation which ended 7th January which asked whether the GOC
should adopt this system? Despite it still being open for consultation, the GOC had already adopted this system and told its registrants to follow the College of Optometrists guidance. Unfortunately for many, the College of Optometrists had amended the system so that the current situation does not fall within the 'Red Phase'.
This has caused many registrants to take to social media to express their concern. One registrant started a poll which asked whether the GOC was exercising its function in supporting the College's Amber guidance?

Nearly 200 voted and, as it stands, 98% believe the GOC is not exercising its function of public protection. It is our understanding that the GOC is awaiting guidance from NHS England, however their duty is not to
NHS England but to the public. This public poll supports that they are failing in this respect.

1.4. The GOC claim to have only engaged with a small number of stakeholders as they needed to respond quickly.
Despite this, the GOC’s Director of Strategy met with a team of Vision Express Executives twice and on one occasion was accompanied by the GOC’s Chief Executive.
The goal of these meetings was to discuss a statement about sale and supply of contact lenses and what Vision Express would want. The Director of Strategy then met with the council member who had been delegated the responsibility for this guidance to discuss it.

As mentioned earlier (1.2), this is not in the public's interest and the guidance was financially beneficial for Vision Express. Similar discussions were not had with the BCLA, who would have been the obvious choice if clinical opinion was required. In conversation with the BCLA, they said that as a result of the original guidance, they were working with the GOC to amend it.

2.1. At the start of the pandemic the College of Optometrists called for a halt to the Education Strategic Review. This advice was appropriate given the need for organisations to rethink how best to allocate resources to respond to the pandemic.
As the regulator for optical professionals, it is reasonable to expect that safety takes priority over a mass overhaul of education.

We recognise the strain the pandemic has put on many organisations as they focused on how to best respond to this emergency, however, the GOC’s decision to not heed the advice of the College of Optometrists placed unnecessary strain on stakeholders. The decision to press on regardless was widely criticized and caused a knock on effect as educational establishments had to deal with their own response to COVID and the change to remote teaching AND consider the appropriate response to the extensive rework of education.

We are grateful for how they reacted at this time and performed their duties as educators in supporting their students, and are disheartened the Education Team was not reassigned to support them. The GOC’s response was inconsiderate and a poor use of resources that would have been better utilised helping academia formulate changes to examinations that would satisfy the requirements for entry on to the register.

2.2. The GOC is acting outside its remit to secure funding for Educational Establishments as part of the Education Strategic Review.

This has been acknowledged by the GOC within their own meeting notes. This is cause for public concern as it creates a conflict of interest between the GOC and those who benefit from the additional funding. This is not the first time the GOC has knowingly acted outside their remit.

A few years ago the GOC were criticised by the PSA for their 'Love your lenses' campaign and a concern was raised by the PSA surrounding a perceived conflict of interest. Regardless of whether it is beneficial to the public, this campaign is still running against the advice of the PSA. This is not naïveté, this is contempt.

2.3. The Education Strategic Review was widely criticized by practitioners, professional bodies and educational establishments alike in the penultimate consultation. Despite this the GOC have pressed on to the dismay of stakeholders.

Conclusion

Despite these concerns being brought to the GOC by its registrants, by the public and through several petitions, the GOC has been defiant and has taken no responsibility for their performance. We ask the Professional Standards Authority to consider the facts laid out, to read the messages left by registrants below and on twitter and to recognise that in the opinion of the professionals and the public, the GOC has failed and needs to be held to account.

We ask for:

• a council that listens to key stakeholders;
• a council that puts a weighting on the views of academia when planning education;
• a council that does not work outside of its own remit to deliver their aims;
• a council that consults with clinical leads from professional bodies, not corporate bodies, on how to handle clinical matters; and
• a council that will preemptively take action to protect the public rather than to wait and react to the often inadequate guidance of others.

We (OPG) believe action needs to be taken now to address the concerns of the signatories below and ask the Professional Standards Authority to conduct a full investigation into the General Optical Council's performance.

We also ask that if the General Optical Council feels comfortable acting outside their remit to secure funding for an unwanted Education Strategic Review, then why should they not act outside their remit to demand additional funding as they suspend routine examinations in areas that are in lockdown.

View the petition here and should you agree the sentiments of the petition register your agreement

About the OPG

The Ophthalmic Practitioners' Group represents the UK's Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians and aims to reform the profession to reflect high standards of public care. 

This group was formed in response to the commercial led proposal for an Optometry Degree Apprenticeship. We recognised that many optical profession had concerns that were not being addressed and we sought to become a voice for them. No one person is responsible for our organisation and each member has plays their own part in our decisions. 

Find out more about OPG here

2021 New Annual Plan published by ABDO

January 2021

The Association of British Dispensing Opticians (ABDO) has launched a new Annual Plan for 2021 which can be found here.

The ABDO Annual Plan for 2021 sets out the wide range of activities that ABDO will be carrying out to continue to support, develop and represent members.

ABDO President Jo Holmes says, “We know that Covid-19 made 2020 a hugely difficult year for everyone – both personally and professionally. ABDO will continue to support members in dealing with the pandemic’s challenges, while managing the organisation’s finances prudently and hoping that the coming year brings more positive news.”

ABDO will support members by providing:

• High quality continuing education and training to support your professional development – through articles, webinars, online workshops and, when feasible, regional events.
• Professional and personalised responses to your requests and enquiries.
• A range of professional qualifications to enable entry to the profession and the expansion of roles.
• Support to gain accreditations needed to deliver enhanced services.
• Guidance and tools via our business support hub.
• Advice and guidance on a wide range of clinical and regulatory issues, including via a new clinical support hub.
• A regular supply of news and information through eNews and Dispensing Optics.

ABDO will represent the profession by:

• Representing members on cross-sector-bodies and committees to ensure the voices of dispensing opticians (DOs) and contact lens opticians (CLOs) are heard.
• Working collaboratively with other organisations to promote eye health and the importance of high-quality dispensing.
• Engaging with the GOC to influence regulatory developments.
• Negotiating opportunities for members to develop their roles.

ABDO will build on member development opportunities by:

• Reviewing the syllabus for our FBDO Level 6 Diploma in Dispensing Optics and responding to the GOC’s Education Strategic Review once this is concluded.
• Having a greater focus on providing education and training that supports members continuing professional development.
• Encouraging students to work towards the management and leadership qualifications that we now offer in conjunction with the Chartered Management Institute.
• Seeking to inspire the next generation of dispensing opticians through our Careers in Eyecare campaign.
• Developing a new strategic plan – to take effect in January 2022 – that will set out a positive vision for the future, explain ABDO’s objectives and demonstrate the benefits members can expect to see.

Jo Holmes adds, “As our members’ professional body, we are proud to serve and safeguard the interests of dispensing opticians, contact lens opticians and low vision practitioners, and hope that 2021 proves to be a successful year for all.”

Joint statement from Chief Executives of statutory regulators of health and social care professionals

January 2021

In March last year, at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we issued a statement to support our registrants in dealing with the un-precedented challenges that they were facing.

As the pandemic continues, we know that health and social care professionals continue to work in very difficult situations and under extreme pressures. We want to thank all health and social care professionals for the care they have continued to provide to patients and those who use health and social care services through these very difficult and challenging circumstances.

With the production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines underway, some of our registrants are leading the effort to vaccinate people as quickly as possible, while others continue to play a vital role in helping to treat and care for people with coronavirus and to contain its spread. We know that the current surge in cases means that all health and social care professionals are likely to face an increased burden, and they may continue to have concerns about decisions they need to take in order to provide the best care in challenging circumstances.

When the pandemic began last year, we as professional regulators across the UK, set out how we would carry out our roles during this time.

We would like to set out our approach again in the following joint statement, which re-iterates the principles we said we would rely upon, and will continue to rely upon as the pandemic continues.

Joint statement from Chief Executives of statutory regulators of health and social care professionals

We hold the registers of health and social care professionals in the UK. We support those professionals to deliver better, safer care by setting the standards they need to meet, to act in the best interests of patients and people who use health and social care services at all times.

As registered professionals, the first concern of the individuals on our registers will be the care of their patients and people who use health and social care services. We encourage health and social care professionals, working in partnership with each other and people using services, to use their professional judgement to assess risk and to deliver safe care informed by any relevant guidance and the values and principles set out in their professional standards.

We recognise that in highly challenging circumstances, professionals may need to depart from established procedures in order to care for patients and people using health and social care services. Our regulatory standards are designed to be flexible and to provide a framework for decision-making in a wide range of situations. They support professionals by highlighting the key principles which should be followed, including the need to work cooperatively with colleagues to keep people safe, to practise in line with the best available evidence, to recognise and work within the limits of their competence, and to have appropriate indemnity arrangements relevant to their practice.

We recognise that the individuals on our registers may feel anxious about how context is taken into account when concerns are raised about their decisions and actions in very challenging circumstances.

Where a concern is raised about a registered professional, it will always be considered on the specific facts of the case, taking into account the factors relevant to the environment in which the professional is working. We would also take account of any relevant information about resource, guidelines or protocols in place at the time.

We will continue to issue profession specific guidance to our registrants to provide additional support where that is needed.

The statutory health and care regulators that have agreed to this statement are:

General Chiropractic Council
General Medical Council
General Optical Council
General Osteopathic Council
General Pharmaceutical Council
Health and Care Professions Council
Nursing and Midwifery Council
Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland
Social Work England

OFNC UPDATE: IMPACT of New Lockdown on practices in England

January 2021

Following the introduction of a new national lockdown in England this week, the OFNC has continued its discussions with NHS England on potential additional support for optical practices affected by the new restrictions.

Under the new rules optical practices are able to remain open, prioritising essential and urgent care and also offering routine care where capacity allows.

However, it is already clear that the new restrictions are having an impact on people accessing eye care, and will cause continued difficulties for domiciliary providers in accessing care homes until the vaccination programme makes progress.

The OFNC and NHS England have agreed to work together to monitor activity levels, and will continue to meet frequently to assess any changes to the current situation and discuss the parameters under which NHS England may consider further intervention to support providers.

The OFNC will provide further information on this as soon as they can.

GOS contractors are invited to contact their OFNC representative body in confidence with information about the viability of services as a result of the new restrictions.

The OFNC will draw on this information (in anonymised form) in its work with NHS England. Please use the following contact details:

ABDO -                policy@abdo.org.uk
AOP -                   policy@aop.org.uk
FODO -                healthpolicy@fodo.com

Meanwhile the OFNC’s member bodies are working with others in the sector and with NHS England to ensure that all patient-facing staff in optical practices and domiciliary providers can access COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as possible, and will continue to provide updates.

Optometrists should follow College’s Amber Phase guidance

January 2021

Optometrists should continue to provide needs- and symptoms-led primary eye care under the new restrictions, in line with all other primary health services.

The College maintains that routine appointments should only be provided if capacity permits, and if it is in the patients’ best interests.

Detailed information on how to achieve this is set out in the College’s amber guidance. While we recognise that optometric practice during a lockdown is challenging, access to an optometrist is critical in ensuring the preservation of vision and prevention of sight loss. This will also help to relieve pressure on NHS hospital services.

We are clear that following Amber Phase guidance during a lockdown does not mean business as usual. Optometry practices should continue to follow existing IPC (infection prevention and control) and social distancing guidance, and prioritise emergency/urgent and essential care on a needs- and symptoms-led basis. This also recognises that practices are at a very different level of preparedness than in March, with IPC procedures in place, changes to clinical practice now embedded and lateral flow tests and PPE readily available.

Routine appointments should only be provided if capacity permits, and if it is in the patients’ best interests.

Prioritising provision

College members should offer phone and video review to patients in the first instance to determine COVID-19 status and level of eye care needed. This should be noted on the patient’s file, and you can use the College’s phone triage form to record remote consultations. Patients should be advised to contact the practice if COVID-19 symptoms develop before, or after, an appointment.

Asymptomatic patients should be advised of the importance of reduced contact and offered the choice of postponing their routine examination until restrictions are eased, particularly if they are at high risk of being affected by COVID-19.

When providing face-to-face care, you should continue to follow the College’s guidance on infection prevention and control, social distancing and wearing of appropriate PPE.

GOC erases Liverpool based optometrist

December 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC), the UK regulator for optometrists and dispensing opticians, has decided to erase Rajendra Chopra, an optometrist based in Liverpool, from its register with immediate effect.

A GOC Fitness to Practise Committee found his fitness to practise impaired by reason of misconduct. This is in relation to his failure to carry out an adequate sight test and make an appropriate referral, and his actions were inappropriate, misleading and dishonest.

Mr Chopra has until 29 December 2020 to appeal his suspension.

GOC launches consultation on Speaking Up guidance for registrants

December 2020

The General Optical Council (GOC) has launched a consultation on new draft Speaking Up guidance for registrants, which aims to support registrants to speak up about concerns they have, in particular those that affect patient and public safety.

The consultation seeks feedback on the clarity and impacts of the guidance, as well as whether there are any areas missing.

The guidance was developed following learnings from recent healthcare inquiries into issues where staff’s concerns were not appropriately actioned, such as the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry.

The document has been drafted in line with the GOC’s duty of candour guidance, which outlines the need for registrants to be open and honest when things go wrong, and should be read alongside the Standards for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians, Standards for Students and Standards for Optical Businesses.

The consultation follows the recent launch of the GOC’s new learning bulletin for registrants on the fitness to practise (FtP) process called ‘FtP FOCUS’.
Marcus Dye, GOC Acting Director of Strategy, said: “Within our Standards, registrants have a duty to speak up about concerns they have when patients and the public might be at risk. We know this can be a difficult thing for individuals to do, and even more so if businesses are unaware of their responsibility to make the process simple and to act on concerns raised.

We’ve split the guidance into two parts, one for individuals and one for businesses, to be as clear as possible on our expectations. Whether you’re an individual or a business, we encourage all registrants to read both parts.

As always, we expect registrants to use their professional judgement when applying the guidance, however we hope that this new guidance will give them the confidence to speak up when they need to in order to protect the public.”

To respond to the consultation, visit the GOC Consultation Hub. The consultation will close on 10 March 2021.

 

 
 
 
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