23 March 2023

GOC presents draft response to its review of the Opticians Act (1989)

The General Optical Council (GOC) has presented a draft response to its call for evidence on the need for change to the Opticians Act (1989) and the consultation on associated GOC policies to its Council.

This follows five months of consultation by the GOC. The review was a vital opportunity for the College to help shape the future of the profession and ensure safe, high-quality eye care. The College responded to the call for evidence on behalf of our members and the profession in July 2022.

We are pleased to report that the GOC has agreed with many of our recommendations in their draft response. Below is an outline of areas where the GOC called for evidence on the need for change, the College’s position, and the resulting draft recommendation from the GOC:

  • Dispensing Opticians performing refraction as part of the sight test
    The College’s position is that testing of sight must remain a protected function of the Act that can only be performed by an optometrist or registered medical practitioner. Refraction and the eye health check should be carried out by one individual, to ensure higher quality and improved safety of care.

    The GOC agrees with our position that dispensing opticians should not be permitted to refract for the purposes of the sight test. The GOC is concerned by the risk of undetected pathologies, including subtle clues about eye health during refraction and ophthalmoscopy that may be missed if different professionals conduct these sight test components.
  • Separating refraction from the rest of the sight test
    The College’s view is that refraction should not be separated from the sight test. We believe that the sight test should continue to be a single episode of care delivered on the same day, at the same location and by one individual. No GOC decision on this has been made yet, but further research will be conducted.
  • Business regulation
    The College’s position is that, in order to provide adequate protections to patients and the public and to provide public reassurance and enhanced confidence in the profession, the GOC should adopt a consistent and comprehensive system of effective business regulation.

    The GOC agrees with our position to expand business regulation to all businesses carrying out restricted functions, regardless of their name, corporate structure or who owns and manages them. The GOC will next develop proposals and consult on an updated framework for business regulation.
  • Dispensing to vulnerable patients
    The GOC agrees with our view that legislation is not necessary. When services are provided to patients who could be considered ‘vulnerable’, the GOC will consider whether any issues can be addressed by amending their standards, rather than changing legislation.
  • Delivery of remote care and technology
    The College advised that the central principle for optical regulation and practice should be that registered, competent optical professionals must remain in control of clinical decision-making as new technologies and innovations are deployed. The Opticians Act should not unduly restrict innovation, but should also maintain its current fundamental principles to ensure the public benefits from safe care and regular and complete sight tests.

The GOC will address our concerns about developments in these fields and related issues in a review of their standards and guidance. 

"The call for evidence on the need for change to the Opticians Act (1989) was a vital opportunity for the College to help shape the future of the profession and ensure safe, high-quality eye care. We are pleased to see in the GOC’s draft response that we have successfully influenced the process and that many of our recommendations have been included, most crucially, that the sight test will be preserved as a refraction and ocular health assessment conducted by an optometrist or registered medical practitioner.

"The College worked tirelessly with members to draft our response, and to ensure that the role and scope of the optometrist is advanced as a consequence of the review. We look forward to working in consultation with the GOC, and as always, will ensure our members’ voices are heard as part of the next stages."

Professor Leon Davies FCOptom, President of The College of Optometrists

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