Fitness to practise amongst UK optometrists

6 February 2015
Volume 16, Issue 1

This study establishes how likely optometrists are to have complaints made against them via the GOC, and the most likely reasons for a fitness to practise hearing.

Background 

There are currently over 13000 registered optometrists in the UK (General Optical Council 2014a). All UK optometrists are required to register with the General Optical Council (GOC) in order to practise. The College of Optometrists is the professional body for the profession. In fulfilment of its aims, the College issues useful clinical guidance which takes a variety of forms, including the Guidance for Professional Practice (The College of Optometrists 2014a) (which replaces the Code of Ethics and Guidance for Professional Conduct) and the Clinical Management Guidelines, which currently provide diagnosis and management guidelines for 56 ocular conditions (The College of Optometrists 2014b). The GOC is the regulatory body for the profession and provides a safety net for the general public should any concerns arise. The GOC has four main functions: (1) setting standards within the industry; (2) approving the route to registration; (3) maintaining registers; and (4) investigating complaints regarding a registrant’s fitness to practise (FTP) (General Optical Council 2014b). Optometrists are required to be registered with the GOC from the moment they enrol on an optometry degree programme and they can take up full registration on successful completion of the College of Optometrists’ Scheme for Registration. In 2012–2013, the GOC had 26616 registrants, comprising optometrists, dispensing opticians, student optometrists, student dispensing opticians and optical businesses (General Optical Council 2014a). All optometrists are required to hold indemnity insurance against litigation, with the majority (almost 80%) choosing to insure through the Association of Optometrists (Association of Optometrists personal communication). In addition, the majority of optometrists are also on a performers’ list, and so are also subject to the performers’ list regulations.

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