Member Code of Conduct

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As a member you will:

  1. Exercise your professional judgement and use your professional skills to the best of your ability.
     
  2. Discharge your professional responsibilities with integrity, considering and acting in the public interest when appropriate.
     
  3. Be an example of good practice to your colleagues.
     
  4. Do all in your power to ensure that your professional activities do not put the health and safety of others at risk.
     
  5. Never engage in any corrupt or unethical practice.
     
  6. Never engage in any activity that will impair the dignity and reputation of the College, fellow members or the optometric profession.
     
  7. Observe the College’s Values when dealing with College employees, fellow members, your colleagues and patients. 

This Member Code of Conduct, alongside your MCOptom or FCOptom affix, demonstrates to patients and peers your commitment to the very highest clinical, ethical and professional standards.

We believe this Code will increase public trust and confidence in the profession, and improve understanding of the role of the optometrist.

Dr Mary-Ann Sherratt MCOptom President, College of Optometrists

 

 

Procedure for complaining about a College member

The procedures to be followed in dealing with complaints against a member who is alleged to have breached the Code of Conduct:

Professional Conduct Committee

1. A Professional Conduct Committee shall be established by the Board of  Trustees in accordance with Bye-laws 49 and 50, and shall have four members drawn from the Council plus a member of the Lay Advisory Panel.

2. At least one member of the Professional Conduct Committee shall be a Trustee, who will chair the Professional Conduct Committee.

3. The quorum for any meeting of the Professional Conduct Committee shall be 50% of the membership, rounded up.

4. All decisions of the Professional Conduct Committee shall be taken by simple majority.  In the case of an equality of votes, the chair of the Professional Conduct Committee shall have a second and casting vote.

5. No-one employed by the General Optical Council in any capacity involving investigations into fitness to practise shall be eligible to be a member of the Professional Conduct Committee.

6. No Member of the College who believes him/herself (or is reasonably considered by the majority of the remaining members of the Professional Conduct Committee) to have a conflict of interest in any complaint shall take any part in proceedings in connection with that complaint. Should this apply to the Chair of the Professional Conduct Committee, the Committee shall appoint a Chair from among its remaining members for the duration of the proceedings.

7. It is the duty of the Professional Conduct Committee to hear any complaint referred to it by the Chief Executive, and to determine in each case on the evidence available if the facts as set out in the complaint are proven on the balance of probabilities.

8. The Professional Conduct Committee shall, acting reasonably, have the power to conduct proceedings in the manner in which it sees fit, including deciding what evidence it hears, the order in which it is heard and the manner in which it is adduced.

9. If the facts as set out in the complaint are proven on the balance of probabilities, it is the duty of the Professional Conduct Committee to determine whether the Respondent has breached the Code of Conduct.

10. If the Respondent is found to have breached the Code of Conduct, the Professional Conduct Committee may determine an appropriate sanction as provided for in the section on sanctions below. 

11. The Professional Conduct Committee shall give the Respondent a written record of any decision that it makes under these procedures, together with the reasons for that decision.

 

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Complaint

12. Complaints must be made in writing to the Chief Executive, and contain the full name of, and enough detail to verify the identity of, the Complainant and an account of the facts alleged against the Respondent which might constitute a breach of the Code of Conduct.

13. The College may also raise a complaint by its own motion via the Chief Executive or an Officer of the College.

14. The Chief Executive, acting under the delegated authority of the Council, has responsibility for deciding whether or not to investigate a complaint as well as the nature and conduct of the investigation. If s/he decides that the complaint should not be investigated, this shall be reported to the Complainant together with reasons as to why s/he has decided not to investigate the complaint and the case closed. 

15. The Chief Executive shall seek, when necessary, comments from the Complainant concerned.  If the information received appears to raise issues of fitness to practise, the Chief Executive shall refer the matter to the GOC.

16. If the Chief Executive decides to investigate a complaint s/he shall, as soon as is reasonably practicable, inform the Respondent in writing of the grounds for the complaint and seek his or her response within a reasonable period, such period being not less than 28 days from the date of seeking this response.

17. When comments have been received or a reasonable period has elapsed, and if the Chief Executive decides that further investigation is required, s/he may appoint an employee or a member of the College as an investigating officer and refer the matter for further investigation.

18. The Respondent shall be informed of a referral for investigation as soon as is reasonably practicable.

 

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Investigation

19. The Investigating Officer shall, as soon as is practicable (ideally no later than three months after referral), complete the investigation. 

20. At the conclusion of the investigation, the Chief Executive will write to the Respondent inviting him or her to comment on all the evidence gathered. 

21. The Respondent will be expected to furnish his/her response within a reasonable period of time as identified by the Chief Executive but such period being not less than 28 days.

22. The Chief Executive will decide on the basis of the evidence and any comments from the Respondent, whether or not there is a realistic prospect that the Professional Conduct Committee will find the facts proven on the balance of probabilities and therefore that the member has breached the Code of Conduct.  

23. Further, the Chief Executive will decide whether or not it is in the best interests of The College to refer the complaint to the Professional Conduct Committee to determine. 

24. If the Chief Executive decides either that there is not a realistic prospect of the facts being established by the Professional Conduct Committee, and/or that it is not in the best interests of the College to refer the complaint to the Professional Conduct Committee to determine, that will be the end of the investigation, and all parties shall be informed accordingly. 

25. A decision by the Chief Executive not to refer to the Professional Conduct Committee shall only be taken with the agreement of the Chair of the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Professional Conduct Committee. 

26. It is open to the Chief Executive to consider alternative courses of action. 

These may include:

  • issuing a warning to the Member, and when appropriate, providing support through either the College’s Clinical Advice Service or directing the Member to relevant training and/or development;
  • issuing a warning to the Member against any recurrence of the conduct which formed the basis of the complaint; or
  • obtaining an appropriate undertaking from the Member. 

27. All papers relating to a case which is closed will remain on the Member’s file for a period of twelve months and be taken into consideration in any future cases of misconduct.

28. The Chief Executive shall report his/her decision in writing to the Complainant and the Respondent as to whether the complaint shall be referred to the Professional Conduct Committee.

 

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Referral to the Professional Conduct Committee

29. Following a decision to refer to the Professional Conduct Committee, the Chief Executive shall call a meeting of the Professional Conduct Committee to hear the Complaint, such a meeting should normally take place within three months of the decision of the Chief Executive to refer the complaint to the Professional Conduct Committee. 

30. When a meeting of the Professional Conduct Committee to hear a complaint has been called, the Chief Executive shall send to the Respondent by special delivery (with advice of delivery or equivalent):

a. notice of the date of the meeting;    

b. a request to attend the meeting;

c. notification setting out the particulars of the complaint and a summary of evidence on which the complaint is based;

d. copies of any witness statements and documentary evidence provided to the Professional Conduct Committee; and

e. a copy of these procedures.

31. The notice shall invite the Respondent to submit a written statement, which in the absence of the Respondent at the meeting shall be considered by the Professional Conduct Committee.  Any such statement shall be submitted at least 7 clear days prior to the meeting. In addition, the notice shall indicate that the Professional Conduct Committee may deal with the matter and impose a sanction in the Respondent’s absence from the meeting.

32. There shall be at least 28 clear days between the service of any such notice and the date fixed for the meeting.

 

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Preparing for the meeting

33. The Chief Executive may accept any representations or seek information or advice in any form from any person in preparation for the meeting. The Chief Executive will send the Respondent copies of any further evidence not already sent to him/her and which has been received in connection with the meeting at least 14 clear days prior to the meeting.

 

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Postponement

34. The Respondent may apply to the Professional Conduct Committee in advance to have the date of the meeting changed, stating the reasons for such a request. The Chair of the Professional Conduct Committee shall, acting reasonably, have discretion as to whether the meeting shall be postponed and, if so, for how long.

 

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Representation

35. The Respondent may appear at the meeting either in person or be represented by any other person. If the Respondent appears at the meeting, they may be accompanied by any other person, who may represent them but who cannot answer questions on the Respondent's behalf.  

 

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Legal Adviser 

36. The College’s Legal Adviser shall be present at any meeting to consider a complaint, either in person or telephonically and shall provide such advice on legal matters as s/he shall deem necessary to ensure that the proceedings are fair and undertaken in compliance with these procedures.

 

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Procedures of the Professional Conduct Committee

37. The Chair of the Professional Conduct Committee shall arrange for minutes of the proceedings to be taken.

38. If the Respondent is not present at the meeting and if the Professional Conduct Committee is satisfied that the Respondent received proper notice of the meeting, it may decide that the meeting shall proceed in the absence of the Respondent. 

39. The Complaint will be read at the commencement of the meeting and the Chair shall ask the Respondent, if present, whether s/he admits that the facts as set out in the Complaint are true.

40. If the Respondent admits the facts, the meeting shall proceed as if the facts had been proved.  If the Respondent does not admit the facts, the meeting will proceed as follows:

a. the Investigating Officer or such other person as the Chief Executive deems fit shall present the case against the Respondent;

b. the members of the Professional Conduct Committee may request any representation in any form from any person; seek any information in any form from any person, and question the Respondent and any witnesses; and

c. the Respondent shall be entitled to call and question witnesses, address the Professional Conduct Committee in response to the complaint or on the facts of the complaint and whether these facts constitute a breach of the Code of Conduct.

41. The Professional Conduct Committee may retire and deliberate privately in the course of the meeting.  The Legal Adviser may be present at such deliberations and may give advice on legal matters as requested, or as s/he thinks fit.  Any advice on legal matters given by the Legal Adviser in private shall later be reported to the meeting.

42. The Chair may grant an adjournment of the meeting at any time s/he thinks fit.

 

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Findings

43. The Professional Conduct Committee shall decide in private if the facts as set out in the complaint against the Respondent are proven on the balance of probabilities and, if so, whether the Respondent is guilty of breaching the Code of Conduct.

 

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Statement in mitigation

44. If the Respondent is present at the meeting, the Professional Conduct Committee shall announce its decision orally, following up in writing and giving reasons for that decision, and if the Respondent is found to have breached the Code of Conduct, s/he shall be invited to inform the Professional Conduct Committee of any mitigating factors.

45. If the Respondent is not present at the meeting, written notice of the Professional Conduct Committee’s decision and the reasons for that decision shall be sent by to the Respondent by special delivery (with advice of delivery or equivalent) within seven days of the meeting. 

46. If the Respondent is found to have breached the Code of Conduct, the notice will invite him/her to submit a written statement in mitigation, or provide confirmation that the Respondent will not submit a statement in mitigation, to be submitted to the Professional Conduct Committee within 14 days from the date of the announcement.

47. Any notice made will, if the Respondent is found to have breached the Code of Conduct, include details of how the Respondent may make an appeal.

 

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Decisions as to sanctions

48. After reading or hearing any statement in mitigation the Professional Conduct Committee shall decide in private on the sanction (if any) to be imposed on the Respondent.

49. If the Respondent is present at the meeting, the Professional Conduct Committee shall announce its decision orally.

50. If the Respondent is not present at the meeting, the Professional Conduct Committee shall consider any statement of mitigation as soon as reasonably practicable after it has been received by the Professional Conduct Committee and give the Respondent written notice of its decision.

51. The Professional Conduct Committee shall provide a copy of the minutes of each meeting to the next meeting of the Trustees after the relevant meeting provided that where the charge has not been proven the minutes shall not identify the Respondent.

 

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Action following ruling of General Optical Council

52. Where the GOC’s Fitness to Practise Committee has decided that a Member’s fitness to practise is impaired and that a direction has been made against him or her, including an interim order under s.13F to s.13I of the Opticians Act 1989, the Chief Executive will take the necessary action to ensure that a suspension or expulsion sanction imposed by the GOC is also imposed by the College. Where the GOC imposes conditions but not suspension or expulsion, they will continue as a member. The College will monitor such conditions and where appropriate, offer support.

 

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Emergency action

53. Where the Chief Executive is informed that the GOC intends to refer a Member to its Fitness to Practice Committee and s/he decides that the conduct of that Member may be sufficiently serious to merit the imposition of a sanction, the Chief Executive may refer the matter to the Professional Conduct Committee with full details of the alleged conduct of the Member and of the recommended sanction to be imposed as emergency action.

54. The Chief Executive shall give the Member a written record of any decision that the Professional Conduct Committee makes under this Rule, together with the reasons for that decision.

55. Any sanction imposed as emergency action may only remain in force until a decision is made by the GOC. The appeals procedure shall apply to any sanctions imposed as emergency action.

 

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Voluntary resignation

56. The College shall be entitled to apply the Code of Conduct to a Respondent in respect of events that took place when s/he was a Member notwithstanding that s/he has sought voluntarily to resign from membership.

 

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Sanctions 

57. If the Respondent is found to have breached the Code of Conduct, s/he may:

a. be required to undertake specified training and / or development appropriate to the breach in question in a form and within a time period as required by the Professional Conduct Committee, failing which some other sanction shall take effect, or the undertaking may be required as well as another sanction; and/or

b. be reprimanded orally and in writing;

c. be suspended from Membership of the College; or 

d. be expelled from Membership of the College;

58. A sanction may be imposed, suspended or deferred on such terms and for such length of time as the Professional Conduct Committee thinks appropriate and in subsequently fixing a suspended or deferred sanction the Respondent’s conduct in the intervening period shall be taken into consideration.

59. Subject to suspension or deferral, a sanction imposed by the Professional Conduct Committee shall come into effect 28 days from the date on which the decision was taken.

 

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Continuing Liability

60. A Member who has been suspended from Membership shall continue to be liable for all subscriptions and other monies (if any) due to the College either prior to or during the suspension, and shall remain subject to the Code of Conduct.

61. A Member who has been expelled from the College shall continue to be liable for all subscriptions and other monies (if any) due to the College up to and including the date of expulsion.

 

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Suspension and Expulsion

62. When the Professional Conduct Committee has ordered the suspension or expulsion of a Member, the Member (in accordance with Bye-law 13.2) shall, immediately upon the sanction coming into effect, surrender his/her Certificate of Membership of the College, and for the period of his/her suspension or expulsion shall not be entitled to:

a. state or give any indication that s/he is a Member;

b. use any affix to his/her name indicating possession of a qualification awarded by the College; 

c. attend or vote at any General Meeting of the College;

d. serve on any committee of the College; or

e. exercise or enjoy any other rights or privileges of a Member.

63. The Chief Executive shall notify the Registrar of the GOC of the suspension or expulsion of any Member so that amendments can be made to the appropriate register.

 

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Appeals

64. The Respondent may within 28 days of being notified of any sanction make an appeal in writing to the Chair of the Board of Trustees.

65. The Chair of the Board of Trustees shall appoint an Appeals Panel to deal with any appeal made. Such Panel shall consist of at least one Trustee, a member of the Lay Advisory Panel and three other members of Council provided that neither the Investigation Officer, members who served in relation to the Respondent’s case on the Professional Conduct Committee or anyone employed by the GOC in any capacity involving investigations into fitness to practise shall be eligible for membership of the Panel. The Panel shall be chaired by a Trustee.

66. In determining the appeal, the Appeals Panel shall have the same powers and follow the same procedures as the Professional Conduct Committee and in addition shall have power to consider afresh the decision appealed against and may take into account any evidence which was not available to the Professional Conduct Committee. 

67. The Member shall be entitled to be represented at the Panel meeting.

68. The Appeals Panel shall determine the appeal within 28 days of its appointment. The Respondent shall be informed in writing of the decision of the Panel together with a statement of the facts found by the Panel and the considerations that led the Panel to arrive at the decision it did as soon as is reasonably practicable following the decision being made.

69. Pending completion of the appeals procedure set out above, the sanctions in respect of which the appeal is made shall be suspended, unless there is a situation in which interim suspension is considered appropriate by the Panel.

 

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Restoration after expulsion

70. A person expelled from membership of the College may apply to be restored to membership at any time not less than 24 months after the date of expulsion.

71. The Professional Conduct Committee shall consider the application for restoration to membership of the College at a meeting.

72. The applicant shall be entitled to attend the meeting.

73. An application for restoration shall be supported by statements from at least two Members in good standing, attesting to the good conduct of the applicant since his/her expulsion.

74. In considering an application for restoration to membership, the Professional Conduct Committee may take into account:

a. the reason for the applicant’s expulsion from membership on the basis of the minutes of the meeting at which the expulsion was ordered;

b. the written application for restoration to membership, and statements submitted with it indicating any training and development undertaken;

c. any oral statement made by the applicant, if present at the meeting; and

d. any other information relating to the applicant’s conduct in the period since the applicant’s expulsion. If such information could have formed the basis of further allegations of breach of the Code of Conduct had the applicant been a Member at the time, the applicant shall have been sent a copy of evidence relating to that information not less than 28 days before the meeting of the Professional Conduct Committee at which the application is to be considered.

 

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Notices

75. All notices served under these procedures may be served personally or by special delivery (with advice of delivery or equivalent). If they are served personally, they are deemed to be served that day.  If they are served by special delivery, they are deemed to be served on the day that record of receipt is made.

 

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