Department of Health – Promoting professionalism, reforming regulation

Our response to a consultation on what reforms are needed across the UK healthcare regulatory system in order to support workforce development while maximising public protection in a more efficient way (January 2018).

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The four UK governments want to design a flexible model of professional regulation which secures public trust, fosters professionalism and improved clinical practice, while also being able to adapt swiftly to future developments in health care. 

Our response:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the consultation on promoting professionalism, reforming regulation. The College is the professional body for optometry. It qualifies the profession and delivers the guidance and training to ensure optometrists provide the best possible care. We promote excellence through the College’s affixes, by building the evidence base for optometry, and raising awareness of the profession with the public, commissioners, and healthcare professionals.

We have decided to concentrate our response on three main aspects of the consultation. We believe that others, such as the General Optical Council, the Association of Optometrists and the Federation of Ophthalmic and Dispensing Opticians are better placed to respond on the other aspects.

We agree that the current legislative framework hampers regulators by making it difficult to modernise their processes. It is important in this fast-changing world that regulators are able to be flexible and responsive to change. Appropriate safeguards should be in place, however, to ensure the public continues to be protected and registrants are treated fairly and proportionately.

We also agree that it would be useful to introduce more consistency between regulators, as this would aid clarity for those outside the regulatory system. We also agree that it is important that there is a mechanism for more detailed systems to be put in place below this that recognises that there are also differences between professions.

We believe that optometrists should remain subject to statutory regulation. Optometrists are doing increasing amounts of clinical work and a significant number are now independent prescribers. They are providing much needed eye health capacity and this is increasingly taking place in small High Street practices rather than in a managed environment, such as a hospital.