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Opchat Magazine Professional Matters PagesProfessional Matters News, April to June 2016


AIO Slates Capita for delaying payments to Practices.

GOC consults on draft candour and consent guidance.

New AOP resources to promote children’s eye health.

College of Optometrists’ inequalities report calls for increased awareness of optometry services and a review of access initiatives.

FODO attends ECOO General Assembly in Berlin.

David Hewlett announced as Chair of the European Coalition for Vision.

Increase in fees for CET and pre-reg supervisors grant in Scotland.

College issues report following dementia and vision research event.

ABDO College appoint three new trustees.

AOP reports record growth of 6% in 2015.

News from General Optical Council.


GOC announces Education Strategic Review.

FODO Board held an “Away Day” Strategy Meeting

GOC to look beyond the norm.

AOP success in unprecedented legal case to protect the profession.

Health Committee urged to carry out further inquiry into primary care, following release of new report.

GOC registrants demonstrate ongoing fitness to practise.

FODO Publishes Slimmed Down Annual Report.

OC says "Be Aware on April Fools Day" of the new requirements of The Accessible Information Standard:


June 2016

The FMO hosted the EUROM1 General Assembly at its offices in Paddington, London on Thursday 23 June.

Eurom is a body which represents the interests of manufacturers from eleven EU member states in the European optical, precision and mechanical industries, with EUROM1 being the Committee which specialises in the optical industry. Ironically, while the vote on the EU Referendum in Great Britain was taking place on the same day, hugely important optical bodies from represented EU states – including Great Britain - met to consider a range of comprehensive and constructive issues which incorporated discussions on European Markets, optical manufacturing priorities and technical and regulatory matters.

Jean Felix Biosse Duplan, Vice President of EUROM1 said “We were delighted with the meeting hosted by our UK member, the FMO, in London. EUROM1 members come from 7 countries and account for more than 80% of the manufacturers in Europe, so we were very pleased that we were able to be joined by David Hewlett, Chair of the European Coalition for Vision, and Paul Folkesson and Peter Gumpelmeyer of the European Council of Optometry and Optics, to discuss how we can all work together in the best interests of eye health, the professions and our industry.”

Ann Blackmore, speaking on behalf of the FMO, said “It was a great honour to host the 2016 General Assembly for EUROM1, which brings together leading players from European and indeed global optical manufacturers. The meeting provided a valuable opportunity to share information and views on the regulatory environment, how the optical market is emerging from the 2008 recession and the social and technological challenges the industry will face.”

Following a successful round table discussion, the meeting concluded with the next General Assembly due to take place in Greece in 2017. However, EUROM1 representatives will continue to meet regularly and help shape and continually improve the optical industry throughout Europe.

AIO Slates Capita for delaying payments to Practices.

June 2016

Association writes to Capita and Jeremy Hunt

AIO logoThe Association for Independent Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians (AIO) has written to the Chief Executive of Capita and to the Secretary of State in respect of the late payment of NHS fees to optical practices. It is becoming clear that the wholly unacceptable practice of late payment is wide spread and has been enduring for many months now.

AIO Chairman Peter Warren said: ‘it is an absolute disgrace that a corporation the size of Capita is sitting on Government funds and not making timely payment of NHS fees to optical practices. If this was a temporary phenomenon it would be one thing, but it has been going on for months now. Small Independent practices cannot afford to carry the financial burden for Government because Capita can’t do its job properly.’

The letter to Capita has asked for an urgent explanation for the delays and a clear timeline for the problem to be resolved. The letter warns that compensation may be claimed in due course if the company has been found to contribute to the demise of any practices where late payment has been a factor.

In the letter to Jeremy Hunt, AIO has asked what the Government is doing to put pressure on Capita to resolve these difficulties. Legislation dictates that Government contracts will be paid within thirty days and the Association’s letter enquires what financial penalties have been levied against Capita for not meeting their contractual obligations.

AIO is also surprised at the apparent silence on this issue in optical circles and calls on other bodies to exert real pressure on Capita and The Government.

See information recently released by LOCSU on this issue here

PHN are Media Partners of AIO and thank them for their support.

PHN would like to know if you are a contractor who is awaiting payment, for what and for how long? It seems that many consider this problem to be a local issue which is how it was told to Opchat news before Optrafair, it is evidently not. Let us know how you are affected. You can mark your email reply confidential if preferred but we must ascertain that you are a contractor of LOC. Email

Read more about AIO here.

GOC consults on draft candour and consent guidance.

June 2016

The General Optical Council (GOC) has launched a consultation on draft guidance on its standards relating to obtaining valid consent and meeting the duty of candour.

The standards in these two areas came into force in April 2016. The draft guidance has been developed to assist registrants in meeting these new standards.

The GOC is now seeking stakeholder views on the draft guidance with a view to publishing the final versions by the end of 2016.

Marcus Dye, GOC Head of Education and Standards said, “It was clear from our standards consultation last year that registrants would like more guidance to help them apply the standards relating to the duty of candour and obtaining valid consent in practice. Candour is a relatively new concept in healthcare and there is a professional responsibility to be open and transparent with patients when things go wrong. It is also important for registrants to obtain valid consent before examining a patient or providing treatment."

“This guidance helps to make clearer what the Standards mean in practice and to support our registrants in applying them. We have run CET events at recent major trade shows, but we want to make sure that clear, written guidance is available to all in these areas. I urge all registrants and stakeholders to read the draft guidance and let us know their views.”

The consultation will run until 6 September 2016. To read the new guidance, and respond to the consultation, please visit:

New AOP resources to promote children’s eye health.

June 2016

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has launched a range of new resources for its members to help raise awareness of the importance of children’s eye health. A new poster – highlighting the fact that children may be unaware that they have a vision problem – was also distributed.

With an estimated one million children with an undiagnosed vision problem in the UK, the new resources include videos, presentations, lesson plans and work sheets that help promote eye health to both children and parents.

AOP Professional Adviser, Geoff Roberson, said: “Parents may be shocked to know how many children have undiagnosed vision problems. Our new resources help members raise awareness of this important issue both in their practice and the local community. We’ve also produced a handy guide for practitioners with top tips for examining children’s eyes, from helping younger patients feel at ease in the consulting room to making the most of technology.”

Two new videos and a patient leaflet have also been produced by the Association. Aimed at the profession, the Children’s vision – how to succeed and where we could improve video includes an interview with Professor Bruce Evans, Director of Research at the Institute of Optometry. Aimed at the public, the second video, Sight now for success later features Geoff Roberson commenting on top tips for parents.

College of Optometrists’ inequalities report calls for increased awareness of optometry services and a review of access initiatives.

June 2016

A new report by the College of Optometrists makes several recommendations to address barriers to poorer communities accessing optometry services, including changing the negative perception of optometry held by these populations. The report also recommends reviewing current local initiatives and pilot projects that are currently attempting to address these issues to see if they can be replicated across the UK.

The report, entitled ‘See the Gap’, explores eye health inequalities through a review of current evidence around uncorrected refractive error (URE) in deprived areas and its association with patient access to eye care services. Focus group results were analysed and found that lack of eye health awareness, poor knowledge of the sight test’s role in detecting disease and negative perceptions of optometry relating to the sale of spectacles, as key factors in people not accessing services.

Other recommendations it makes to improve access to optometry services for the economically disadvantaged include:

• Mapping the UK-wide prevalence of URE using consistent methodology.

• Reviewing the current initiatives and pilots attempting to address access, issues, including a cost/benefit analysis.

• Raising public awareness of optometry, aimed at changing the negative perceptions of optometry held by many deprived patients and encouraging national public eye health campaigns.

• Exploring ways of enhancing the clinical aspects of optometry in deprived areas (e.g. community optometry clinics)

The College of Optometrist’s Director of Policy and Strategy, Jo Mullin, said: “There are significant inequalities in the eye health of different UK populations, with people in poor socio-economic groups less likely to access eye health services, even if they are readily available, and more likely to lose their sight.

This report attempted to identify steps that might be taken to redress this imbalance – in a country where the optometric profession is probably most developed and established in the world.

"We hope that recommendations made in this report will be understood and acted on by the relevant stakeholders, including policy-makers, optometrists and public health campaigners, who can then take steps to close the gap.”

The term refractive error encompasses the common ocular conditions myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness), astigmatism and presbyopia (a form of long-sightedness).

Evidence shows that URE can adversely affect quality of life, impair education and increase the risk of falling, and is more likely in deprived groups. Despite this, mapping prevalence has proved problematic in the past as data is difficult to obtain.

The report features a number of case studies from College members across the country, providing examples of how optometrists in deprived areas work to address the issues they face.

The College of Optometrist’s patient information series, public facing website, Look After Your Eyes and its campaigns and work with the media aim to help the public understand the unique role that optometrists play in delivering eye health care.


Read the report here


FODO attends ECOO General Assembly in Berlin.

May 2016

Blackmore and LarsenThe seventh European Council of Optometry and Optics (ECOO) annual conference took place last week (19-22 May) in Berlin where work continued on driving and vision and on the mutual recognition of opticians qualifications in Europe.

Picture: FODO's Ann Blackmore, who is also Secretary of the Public Affairs and Economic Committee with Per Michael Larsen, Chair of the Public Affairs and Economic Committee.

David Hewlett announced as Chair of the European Coalition for Vision.

May 2016

Davi HewlettECV are delighted to announce that David Hewlett, representing the Optical Confederation, has been selected Chair of the European Coalition for Vision (ECV).


The ECV is an alliance of professional bodies, patient groups, European NGOs, disabled people's organisations, trade associations representing suppliers and research groups.

They exist to raise the profile of eye health and vision, help prevent avoidable visual impairment and secure an equal and inclusive society for those with irreversible blindness or low vision in Europe.

Increase in fees for CET and pre-reg supervisors grant in Scotland.

May 2016

Scotland has announced increases of the allowance payable to £540 for the loss of earnings in respect of continuing education and training (CET) for 2015.

In addition, the allowance to be paid to supervisors of pre-registration trainees has increased. We await details about England, Wales and Northern Ireland to report.

College issues report following dementia and vision research event.

May 2016

The College of Optometrists has developed a report outlining the outcomes of the Visual Impairment and Dementia (VIDem) Summit. The Summit was co-hosted by the College of Optometrists, Thomas Pocklington Trust and the Alzheimer’s Society, and was supported by the James Lind Alliance, to identify priorities for research into concurrent dementia and visual impairment.

The event brought together expert opinions from people living with concurrent dementia and visual impairment, their carers and clinicians and organisations providing services to people in this group. Participants were invited to review research priorities most relevant to concurrent visual impairment and dementia from the two priority setting partnerships for dementia and for sight loss and vision. The event itself was structured around collaborative group work to identify key priorities for research from within the initial list.

These priorities were; appropriate methods of visual assessment, how to maintain independence, the timing of cataract intervention, how to effectively change practice with research and the routes to early dementia diagnosis. The report recommends that these priorities are disseminated widely and, when possible, integrated into the processes to evaluate funding applications.

The resulting VIDem report, which can be downloaded here. It includes an in-depth summary of the Summit debate, and abstracts from research presented on the day.

Michael Bowen, Director of Research for the College of Optometrists said: “The VIDem Report is the first time that the research priorities from two James Lind Alliance priority setting partnerships (PSPs) have been reviewed in order to identify shared priorities for people living with conditions, diseases or disordered from both of those PSP areas. The VIDem Summit Report gives an account of how this can be done for two critial PSPs - Sight Loss and Vision, and Dementia. The risks of developing either dementia or visual impairment increase with age so a significant proportion of people living with dementia will also be living with some degree of visual impairment. This report offers important insights into the priorities for research that people living with concurrent visual impairment and dementia and the clinicians caring for them most want to see funded.”

The summit arose from the Prevalence of Visual Impairment in Dementia (PrOVIDe) project, a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded project. The £500,000 project, led by the College of Optometrists, (working with City University London, UCL, Newcastle University, University of Birmingham, The Thomas Pocklington Trust and the Alzheimer’s Society), was set up to measure the prevalence of a range of visual problems in people with dementia and to identify and describe the reasons for any under detection or inappropriate management of visual impairment in people with dementia. The report will be published in full this summer.

Members of the team of researchers working on PrOVIDe have presented at a number of the College’s regional events in recent months.

As part of the college’s work around vision and dementia we have developed some educational videos with UCL exploring methods on testing dementia. These will be available to members later this summer.


ABDO College appoint three new trustees

May 2016

ABDO College trustees serve for a maximum of eight years. As three members of the ABDO College board of trustees complete their term of office, three new trustees have been appointed following a round of interviews.

Daryl Newsome will take up his appointment on the 21 July 2016; he replaces former chairman of the trustees Huntly Taylor.
Daryl is a practice partner, dispensing optician, CLO and ABDO examiner based in Devon where he employs 23 staff within three practices.
He has more than 30 years’ experience working in various retail and education environments.

Geri Dynan will take up her appointment on the 29 September 2016 and replaces Kevin Gutsell. Geri has worked in the profession for almost 20 years; she qualified as a dispensing optician via ABDO College in 2008. She is an ABDO board member, ABDO practical examiner, chairman of ABDO Northern Ireland Area, a committee member of Optometry Northern Ireland and recently became an ABDO College distance learning tutor.

Ian Wills will take up his appointment on the 26 January 2017 to replace Matt Trusty. Ian is a director of Specsavers in Newton Abbott and Launceston, he qualified as a dispensing optician and contact lens optician before going on to qualify as an optometrist. Ian has supervised fourteen students, three of whom have gone on to qualify as CLOs and two as optometrists.

Commenting on the appointments, chairman of the college trustees Angela McNamee said “Having chaired the interview panel I am sure that Daryl, Geri and Ian will all make a significant contribution to the work of the board of trustees and I look forward to working with them.”

AOP reports record growth of 6% in 2015.

May 2016

The Association of Optometrists’ (AOP’s) Annual Report 2016 highlights another record year of growth for the organisation. Described as a period of challenge, change and transformation, the report highlights the AOP’s 6% rise in membership and 32% increase in legal and regulatory enquiries from 2014.

In 2015 the AOP’s in-house legal and regulatory team received more than 3,800 member enquiries, reflecting the ongoing demand for this valued service. Employment issues were the single most common enquiry, followed by queries related to General Ophthalmic Services and patient complaints.

The Association delivered on its communications strategy in 2015 introducing a refreshed brand identity and fully integrated mobile-responsive website. The new-look and reduced frequency Optometry Today (OT) was also launched, along with a consolidated and more engaging social media presence.

2015 also saw key developments in AOP policy work to represent members and shape the profession. A new, streamlined, and more representative Council was elected, and a Policy Committee set up to oversee government consultations and develop position statements on key issues.

Building on the commitment to raise awareness of eye health and optometry with the public, the AOP launched a new For Patients section in 2015. This included leaflets to help members with patient queries, an animated video to help inform the public about the importance of regular sight tests and new eye care blogs on topical patient issues.

AOP Chief Executive, Henrietta Alderman, said: “The AOP has a responsibility to deliver on the trust given to us by our membership and provide value for money. In 2015 we continued to grow our membership and develop highly-valued services. Membership fees were frozen for the sixth consecutive year, while outstanding defence and legal support remained central to our tailored membership package.”

Commenting on the AOP’s commitment to members, Ms Alderman added: “In 2015 we deliberately budgeted for a surplus to assist us in achieving our recommended reserves policy. This allowed us to defend two performer members in the High Court which could have been a considerable cost. Once our reserves are secure we will be able to consider how best to further support and represent our members”. This comment follows news of the AOP’s recent success in an unprecedented legal case to protect the profession.

For more information, see the Annual Report 2016 and full accounts on the AOP website here.

News from General Optical Council.

May 2016

Guidance on consent and candour

Council approved draft guidance on consent and on the duty of candour. Registrants and other stakeholders were particularly keen to receive extra guidance in these two areas and the GOC will now consult on the drafts.

The duty of candour is a relatively new concept in healthcare. It is a professional responsibility to be open, honest and transparent with patients when things go wrong.

It is also important for registrants to obtain valid consent before examining a patient or providing treatment.

Alistair Bridge, GOC Director of Strategy said, “It was clear from our standards consultation last year that registrants would like more guidance on candour and consent. We have run CET events at recent major trade shows to support registrants, but we want to make sure that clear, written guidance is available to all.

“We are now consulting with our stakeholders to make sure we get the guidance right, and until we have had the chance to listen and reflect on their views, registrants should note that the documents are only in draft form and do not yet represent the GOC’s official view.”

Illegal practice strategy

Council received an update on the GOC’s strategy for tackling illegal practice in the optical sector.

In the coming year the GOC will focus on raising awareness among patients and the public about how to buy and wear contact lenses safely.

Recent independent research conducted for the GOC showed a need for improvement in the provision of, and compliance with, aftercare advice.

The research showed that only 48 per cent of patients could recall receiving aftercare advice at their last contact lens check-up and only 43 per cent viewed contact lenses as a healthcare product rather than a lifestyle or cosmetic one.

Further development of a voluntary code of practice for online contact lens sellers has been deferred until 2017/18, as the GOC announced last week when it published its business plan. This will allow the GOC to dedicate sufficient resources to its Education Strategic Review.

Council also decided that following its public consultation on the draft code, it would not be appropriate, based on the currently available evidence, to include within the code the proposed provisions relating to substitution of contact lenses.

The GOC appreciates that some stakeholders feel strongly about this issue and the potential for public harm. However, there is not currently any evidence of patients suffering direct harm as a result of substitution.

Hearings and indicative sanctions guidance

Council approved new hearings and indicative sanctions guidance to be used in the GOC’s fitness to practise (FTP) process following a consultation.

The guidance is used to explain the FTP process and help panels members decide what sanction to apply, if any, in an FTP hearing. The guidance will help to ensure fair and proportionate decisions. The changes are also designed to take account of legal and regulatory changes and the GOC’s new Standards of Practice.

The guidance was generally supported by the majority of stakeholders who responded to the consultation. However, following the consultation the GOC did make some amendments to specific parts of the guidance and to improve clarity and accessibility generally.

The GOC will publish the final version of the guidance in the coming days.

Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) Annual Report

Council were presented with the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) Annual Report for 2015-16. The OCCS received 969 enquiries regarding optical consumer complaints in 2015-16, between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016, and reached a resolution in over 98 per cent of cases. ¬

Lisa Davis, GOC Director of Fitness to Practise, said: “The 98 per cent resolution figure shows what an impressive record the OCCS has in resolving disputes. It is important that practitioners remember the OCCS is a mediation service which they can turn to as well, designed to work impartially with both the patient and the practitioner.”

Other news

Council considered and provided feedback on a draft strategy to manage FTP complaints more quickly and effectively.

The GOC will now work to finalise and implement the strategy.

Council approved a new policy on the management of interests, which will begin a trial period from 1 June 2016. This policy is intended to support the principles of transparency to maintain confidence in the GOC and ensure decision making is independent, fair and free from improper influence and bias.


May 2016

FODO held its Annual General Meeting in London on 10 May.

Lynda  Oliver Chair FODOLynda Oliver, in her second year as FODO Chair, opened proceedings by promising that FODO, FODO Ireland and NCHA members would continue to be the driving forces for progress and change across the optical and hearing sectors.

Oliver said: “The challenges ahead for eye care are well set out in the Foresight Project Report. At FODO, we take these challenges and opportunities with deadly seriousness. They are the harsh realities – and opportunities – of where we will be able to be of value to society in the future. And, on behalf of the sector, we are not about to let that go.

“This will involve moving rapidly to different models of practice and to wider and higher skilled clinical roles for optometrists and opticians based on a different form of education. What was once the limited preserve of hospital optometry needs to move at scale and pace into the community, with hospital optometrists and others in the hospital eye service taking on roles that ophthalmologists currently perform.

“It is shaming for the NHS and society when we read media headlines such as “Patients are going blind - because the NHS delays vital follow-up appointments” and to hear public pleas for help by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists – and then to see commissioners looking the other way and whistling while, all the while, resources in the community go under-utilised and, in some cases, are disparaged by medical colleagues.”

FODO Chair called on the sector to work together in all four UK countries and Ireland to meet these challenges – “It has been an incredibly tough year for FODO and the sectors within which we operate. The coming year will be even tougher but the risks of not ‘going for it’ are high and the prizes of ‘going for it’ for public health, patients and the population higher still. We will not let them or our members down.”

Oliver stated that it was the members who were the driving force and this enabled FODO to work across a broad sector of healthcare issues, no involving the regions and Hearing Care.

Ireland is an area that FODO is focussing on especially with the, still in existence, requirement for all children to see an paediatric ophthalmologist for who there is now a 2 year wait list.

The hearing sector in the UK suffers similar wait times with a one million person wait list just for ear wax treatment!

The other issue to resolve and balance is the fact that while other primary care sectors are receiving increased IT budgets Optics receives none.

These and many other issues are why FODO intends to lead the way even though it can sometimes be a lone voice its policies and strategies are driven by its members for the good of the public health.

FODO to deliver CET and CPD

FODO also launched the first of its new CET and CPD peer discussion training packs – on retinal detachment – at the AGM. Commenting on the packs, FODO professional adviser Professor Steve Taylor said: “We are developing these packs in response to member demand. There is a lot of good CET and CPD about and we have no desire to replicate that. The FODO training packs will be focussed on the areas of highest risk in front-line clinical practice with the aim of minimising them and improving patient safety, clinician confidence and the range of what we can do in primary care.”

Re-elections to Board

Three FODO Directors – Adrian Street (Norville Opticians and Lead Director for SMEs), Paul Morris (Specsavers and Wales) and Alan Tinger (independent consultant) – all retired by rotation but were all unanimously re-elected for further terms.

Treasurers Report

Hal Rolasson was pleased to report that depite this years reduction in the cost of membership to each FTE that FODO had increased its profit over expenditure compared to last year by £6K.

He announced that the second call will remain as the first at £ 76.50 per FTE.

FODO membership is calculated and charged in 2 tranches (calls) per the number of FTE's (Full Time Equivalent workers per business)


GOC announces Education Strategic Review.

May 2016

The General Optical Council has today set out plans to review education in the optical sector.

The Education Strategic Review will ensure that qualifications leading to GOC registration will prepare optometrists and dispensing opticians for the roles they will carry out in the future, as technological change and enhanced services reshape the delivery of optical services.

The review, announced in the GOC’s 2016/17 Business Plan, will consider the standards of competence that students must meet and how they are assessed.

The GOC will be deferring work in other areas to ensure it is able to dedicate sufficient resources to the Education Strategic Review.

Samantha Peters, GOC Chief Executive and Registrar, said: “The optical professions are changing fast and the courses which lead to qualification as a dispensing optician, contact lens optician, optometrist or independent prescriber must ensure they reflect this in the future.

“We will be consulting widely with stakeholders to consider how education should change in the future, particularly to reflect registrants’ greater roles in providing enhanced services and technological change.

“Clearly, this project is a big undertaking but it is essential to ensure long-term patient safety. Because of its wide scope, we will be deferring some other activities until next year to ensure that we can carry out all our projects with sufficient thought, resource and stakeholder engagement.”

The new GOC business plan, available at here , also now prioritises consideration of future legislative reform for the optical sector and health professions more generally.

To free up resources, three projects have been rephased, with activity being deferred from the draft business plan received by Council in February 2016.

These are:

• Standards Strategic Review – the GOC will continue during 2016/17 to implement the new standards of practice for individual registrants, but is deferring until 2017/18 the development of new standards for optical businesses.

However, on 1 April 2016 the GOC updated its Code of Conduct for business registrants to be clear that all businesses must not prevent their employees from complying with the GOC’s new individual standards; and

• CET evaluation – consideration of changes for the next CET cycle will now take place in 2017/18 once the GOC has reviewed the just-finished 2013-15 cycle.

• Illegal practice strategy – the GOC plans to defer until 2017/18 work to develop a voluntary code of practice for online contact lens sellers, on which the GOC will provide an update at its next Council meeting on 11 May.

FODO Board held an “Away Day” Strategy Meeting

May 2016

FODO Board held an “Away Day” Strategy Meeting recently prompted by the gathering sentiment for action regarding the urgent need to improve the professions ability and legislative changes to provide the service that required.

The FODO Board held its annual strategy day on Tuesday 19 April. Beginning with a review of the Foresight Project Report (published 22 March), the Board considered
- the report’s implications for community eye health care and services outside hospital across all four UK countries and the Republic of Ireland
- the Optical Confederation’s role and strategy
- the roles of the Clinical Council and LOCSU in driving these agendas forward in England
- the sector’s profile with public and opinion formers and how these might be improved in support of the above
- the community optical workforce, strengths, threats, opportunities and timescales of GOC’s planned review of optometric and optical education
- MECS roll out and prescribing (AOP colleagues helpfully joined us for this part of the day)
- GOS fees and strategy
- the Government’s review of regulators and the pros and cons of the GOC’s role in the sector
- the urgency of change and the need for pace, energy and leadership to drive these reforms forward
- FODO‘s role within the sector in delivering these aims.

Key conclusions were that the sector should welcome and embrace the challenges and opportunities technological change presents as professionals, as businesses and for patients.

Technological change had served us well in the past but, whenever the sector had tried to play Canute, it had always got its feet wet. Moreover if we did not seize the opportunities for patients, someone else would.

We estimated we had circa two years to achieve the advances we wanted to see.

This would involve:

- upskilling both optometrists and DOs – employers had a major role here – both for MECS and higher level roles

- offering MECS as standard within 12 months (whether NHS or non NHS – we should not let weak NHS commissioning get in the way)

- developing AS exemptions to support MECS as standard

- developing the role of DOs in delivering MECS especially for smaller practices which did not have full time optometrists

- renew our support for refracting DOs as part of the clinical team – optometrists were now in the bizarre position of being able to delegate parts of the sight test to a machine but not to a trained professional which was contrary to full clinical roles

- moving away from being ‘refractionists and case-finders’ to autonomous eye health clinicians diagnosing, managing clinical risk, treating, discharging and delegating as the primary eye clinicians of the community

- continue vigorously to pursue (easy) IT connectivity with the NHS

GOC to look beyond the norm.

May 2016

GOC prioritizes the need to reveiw Education in the Optical Sector

Ed's Note: "This is great news for the profession and shows how interactive and flexible the GOC has become in adapting to change."

It was just February this year when the WCSM sponsored a serious debate at 100% Optical, ("If we were all called Doctors", see archived news) on the role the optical professions must play in order to join and be accepted in primary care provision by the medics.

The content of that debate made it clear to all and to the CEO of the GOC, Samantha Peters in attendance and debating, that regulatory bodies contribute to the risk of holding back the profession by ring fencing and creating secure boundaries in competencies by their very regulations.

At the heart of the debate and the starting point for change in our profession is education and the GOC's regulatory powers over curriculum and the clinical working practices allowed therein needs swift attention.

Following the later publication of the Foresight Project it becomes clear that our professional roles will be much altered in the median and long term future, like it or not!

And now FODO has added weight for the need to change at its "away day".

The challenge the GOC faces will be to create a structure in design that allows migration across boundaries and not only within the optical service.

They will need to encourage regulators across the entire primary care spectrum involving eyecare from GP to Ophthalmology regulation and including Orthoptics to create osmotic barriers so we can work to our individual strengths not to prescribed limitations.

Put in the mix all the professional bodies including ours in Optics, that see raising the bar as good for their members as long as it doesn’t raise the bar to those below in the "food chain" and you have quite a task in hand. Add a dose of commercial aversion and to be fair viability and the job gets even harder.

But in the many years I have been involved in optical politics I do believe the GOC is now in a position to create and stimulate something really groundbreaking. Whether they can do this on time, and surprise us all, or deliberate obsessively will become obvious by the end of the year. Let's hope that by next April 2017 we will have an exciting story to tell?

It will need to work as hard at "change management" in order to champion such changes but would should all wish it well in its desire.

(The Editor of Opchat News, Bob Hutchinson, has held positions in the past both at the GOC, FODO and is now working closely with GPs and Primary Healthcare at the RSM. as well as being a retired optometrist)

AOP success in unprecedented legal case to protect the profession.

May 2016

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has intervened and championed practitioners in an unprecedented legal battle based on unfounded NHS England claims.

The success of the AOP’s in-house legal team protecting members, working as employees or locums, represents a significant win for the profession.

The case – which lasted over two years – arose when NHS England decided in 2014 to pursue performers for General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) claims.

Commenting on the background to the case, Gerda Goldinger, AOP Legal and Regulatory Services Director, said: “The NHS has always had the remit to audit records produced by contractors. However in 2013, NHS England adopted a different approach to the auditing and recovery of GOS claims that they thought had been inappropriately claimed.”

Ms Goldinger continued: “The change in approach was an aggressive one. The company brought in by NHS England started to work with a firm of solicitors to threaten members. And not just with the recovery of sums that they considered to be due, but with taking away their livelihoods and their homes if they did not respond urgently and positively to the claim letters.”

Described as a “frightening and intimidating” tactic, this practice was then extended to performers, who were working as employees or locums of contractors.

Commenting on this experience, one of the AOP members involved in the case, who requested to remain anonymous, said: “Completely out of the blue I received a letter from a firm of solicitors. The letter informed me that, following an audit of a number of patient records and NHS claims from a three-year period, some claims were incorrect, and I was to personally pay back what they deemed to have been incorrect GOS1 and GOS3 claims. The aggressive, uncompromising tone of the letter - along with the implied allegations and implications, both professional and financial - made it extremely distressing.”

At this point, the AOP was compelled to intervene to protect its members. Ms Goldinger explained: “We knew that if NHS England directly pursued the performer, the move was going to change the landscape forever, and we needed to act.” Ms Goldinger continued: “This case would have meant a much more defensive mode of practice would have been adopted. And it would have pushed a lot of performers out of the profession because it would have become a stressful way to work.”

For the two AOP members involved in this case, the matter has now been resolved in their favour. However, this decision does not bind the NHS to any other cases, as every case is considered individually.

Ms Goldinger added: “I think NHS England will think long and hard now before they pursue any other performer members, certainly in cases where the facts are very similar to this one. As it stands, we are aware of ten cases of individual members being targeted, but we are hoping that we are going to get some closure on those cases in the coming months.”

One of the AOP members involved in the case added: “Thankfully, because of the AOP's robust stance, after nearly two years, the allegations were finally dropped. The AOP was excellent from beginning to end, and I am extremely grateful to the team. You never want to have to use a safety net – but if you do, it is good to know it works.”

Commenting on the AOP’s legal support for members, Ms Goldinger said: “Defending litigation is a very expensive business, and for most people it is quite out of reach. I think a number of our members would have felt that they had nowhere to go if we had not stepped in.”

Following the case, Ms Goldinger highlighted the importance of keeping up to speed with changes in the profession. “Our advice to any AOP member who is under investigation is to contact us immediately. The Optical Confederation’s guide to Making Accurate Claims, authored by the AOP, is a resource worth repeat reading,” she added.

Health Committee urged to carry out further inquiry into primary care, following release of new report.

May 2016

The Health Committee has today published a report on their inquiry into Primary Care.

The Committee’s fourth report of Session 2015–16, Primary Care outlines how access to primary care can be improved.

While the Health Committee sets out the role of GPs and pharmacists, it does not include other parts of Primary Care such as the optical sector.

Chris Hunt, Chair of the Optical Confederation said: “We welcome this report of the Health Committee’s inquiry into Primary Care and we understand the pressures of time and resources.

However, it would be good if the Health Select Committee would carry out a further inquiry into the other parts of primary care and how by working together we can improve support to individuals in the community, care closer to home and relieve pressures on hospitals, GPs and pharmacists.”

A full version of the report can be found on the Committee’s website

GOC registrants demonstrate ongoing fitness to practise.

April 2016

The General Optical Council (GOC) has today released figures showing that the vast majority of opticians have demonstrated their continuing fitness to practise by meeting the requirements of its Continuing Education and Training (CET) scheme.

The GOC removed just 160 registrants for failing to meet their CET requirements for the 2013-15 cycle – less than one per cent of the register.

The GOC has also removed a further 135 individual registrants from its registers for failure to apply for retention by the 31 March deadline.

Samantha Peters

GOC Chief Executive and Registrar, Samantha Peters, said:

“It is pleasing to see such high compliance with our CET requirements. CET is essential for registrants to maintain and develop their knowledge and skills, and ensures that the public are protected and can be confident in the ability of their eye care practitioner. The scheme underwent a lot of changes for the 2013-15 cycle to encourage more interactive learning and the professions have embraced the changes tremendously.

“It is a legal requirement for all fully qualified registrants to renew their registration annually, and those registrants who did not complete their retention are now unable to practise until they have restored their registration. All employers and commissioners should ensure that any optometrist or dispensing optician working for them remains registered with the GOC.”

Any individual or business registrants who have been removed, but who wish to continue practising, must first restore to the register. To do this, applicants must complete a restoration form indicating that they have met the restoration requirements and pay a restoration fee. For individual practitioners, the restoration requirements include completing all necessary CET.

Details are available on the GOC website.

FODO Publishes Slimmed Down Annual Report.

April 2016

The FODO Annual Review for 2015/16 outlines the major policy developments in UK and Irish optics and hearing care over the last year.

The report was launched at Optrafair, with digital copies also available for download on the FODO website.

This year, our Annual Review is supported by an additional Impact Review, which provides a greater analysis of the issues outlined in the main review by senior staff.

“The Annual Review contains focused snapshots from each area we operate in” said Chief Executive David Hewlett.

“It outlines the major themes and policy shifts taking place in our sectors, making them more accessible to practices, practitioners and the optical frontline.

“We have also produced an Impact Review in which we discuss some of the developments in more detail and look ahead to what we think will be the big challenges and opportunities in the coming year.”

OC says "Be Aware on April Fools Day" of the new requirements of The Accessible Information Standard:

April 2016

Update on implementation in primary care published by OC.


In September 2015 we informed members that NHS England were introducing a new Accessible Information Standard, which would be a legal requirement for all providers of NHS and adult social care services in England, including GOS contractors.

The purpose of the Standard is to ensure that people who have communication needs because of a disability or sensory loss receive information in a suitable format, ideally of their choice.

As we explained last September, we had a number of concerns about the proportionality and feasibility of the Standard and called on NHS England to consider how its principles could be met in a flexible and pragmatic way that minimises costs to businesses.

In February 2016 we, along with colleagues from the other primary care professions, met with NHS England.

We were reassured to hear that the Standard was not intended to create additional bureaucracy and should be implemented flexibly rather than as a tick-box exercise. NHS England responded to all of the concerns we raised and agreed to work with us to produce specific guidance for providers working in primary care settings.

The purpose of this briefing is to update you on the requirements of this Standard, to explain what steps you need to take next, what we are doing and to let you know what support we aim to provide you with.


As our September guide to getting started on the Accessible Information Standard explained, you should now have started preparing for implementation of the Standard. Reading our guidance and considering how you will implement it in your practice meets that initial requirement.

From 1 April 2016 you should, as a matter of normal routine practice, ask your patients about any communication needs they may have and ensure that you record that information on their notes.

Where you can act on this information right away by making simple adjustments you should do so, but you are not legally required to take any action under the Standard until 31 July 2016.

However, you must continue to meet the existing requirements of the Equality Act 2010 by making reasonable adjustments to support disabled people to access your services.

Over the next few months we will provide further, more detailed information to help you meet your responsibilities to patients with communication needs.

Clarification on New Requirements

We will be working with NHS England to produce detailed guidance on asking about information and communication needs and recording that information. But in the meantime you may find the following points of clarification from NHS England helpful:

1. Ask: as a matter of routine you must enquire if a new or returning patient has any information or communication support needs relating to a disability, sensory loss or other impairment (e.g. stroke).

For example, ask patients if they require any reasonable adjustments to be made when they book an appointment. You may also wish to update your waiting room information signs and patient information forms. See Annex 1 for example forms of words to use in your practice and on your website.

2. Record: clearly and consistently record those needs in the patient’s records (paper or electronic).

You can record these needs in any way that is clear, consistent and practical. The key point is that the information is meaningful and can be acted on. You are not required to use any specific language or terminology, but you must ensure that you record the person’s actual communication needs and not simply their diagnosis (e.g. “deaf - can lip read”, not just that the person is deaf; or “severely sight impaired - send information by email”, not just that they are blind).

3. Alert/Flag: the recorded needs must be ‘highly visible’ - so that it can be seen and acted upon whenever the individual’s record is accessed.

This should be done in the same way as for any other risk information (e.g. pregnancy or a diagnosis of epilepsy). NHS England has confirmed that it is sufficient to highlight this information on the front sheet of paper records and in a key information or notes field of electronic records. It is NOT necessary to display this information as a flag/banner on each page of an electronic record if your patient record system does not have this functionality.

4. Share: you should include information about a patient’s information and communication needs at referral, discharge and handover, following your existing data sharing processes.

NHS England has clarified that the Standard should not create additional layers of bureaucracy.

You should follow your existing procedures for gaining the consent of a patient to treatment and to sharing information about them with other professionals, which may normally be implicit, for example in their applying for an NHS sight test under GOS.

This means that you will not need to obtain consent specifically for sharing people’s information and communication needs or renew consent at each stage unless this is your normal practice.

5. Act: make reasonable adjustments to ensure that people receive information in a format they
can understand.

The adjustments you make should be reasonable – but this does not mean that the patient must always receive information in their preferred format. What is important is that they can access and understand the information.

The Standard is intended to promote flexible and practical adjustments that enable people with information and communication support needs to participate fully in their care, not to impose undue burdens on providers that do little to benefit patients.

For example, you are not expected to hold stocks of patient materials available in alternative formats or to invest in adaptive technologies or braillers. Instead, be prepared to find an alternative solution, such as voice recording a patient’s prescription into their phone or emailing them a copy of their prescription or referral letter.

You will, however, be expected to provide materials in alternative formats upon reasonable request. The Optical Confederation will provide further guidance on where to source materials in these formats (e.g. downloadable from RNIB).

It has not yet been clarified how more costly adjustments (e.g. BSL interpreters) are to be funded. The Optical Confederation and our primary and community care partners will continue discussions on this point with NHS England. Until then there is no change to the status quo.


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