The General Optical Council recently gave its formal support to transferring responsibility for hearings to a new Independent Adjudication Body at the earliest opportunity. The new body will be set up as a result of recommendations in the Government’s White Paper on professional regulation, and could take on fitness to practise cases from 2010. The GOC has already separated its role in investigation and prosecution from adjudication by creating an independent hearings panel. The move is in line with best practice to ensure that registrants’ human rights are protected and that all parties can continue to expect fair, impartial treatment. In the longer term, shared adjudication should mean more consistent FTP decisions across the healthcare professions.
The GOC today highlighted key areas of concern about proposed new legislation giving European professionals rights to ‘temporary’ and ‘occasional’ registration in the UK. The European Qualifications Directive would allow qualified European practitioners the right to practise as optometrists and dispensing opticians in the UK without going through the process of full registration. Members voiced concerns that patient safety would be compromised if temporary and occasional registrants were not subject to CET requirements, or did not have adequate insurance. Concerns were also expressed that less information would be available on the register about such individuals than was the case for full registrants. The Council agreed that these issues should be raised in the GOC response to the current consultation.
At its meeting today, the General Optical Council agreed to re-issue an invitation to tender for a consumer complaints mediation service. The tender process was postponed in November last year pending a Department of Health consultation on the introduction of a single complaints process across health and social care. In the interim, a 12-month contract extension was agreed with the current providers, OCCS. The consultation has now been issued and was not felt to have an impact on these arrangements. Therefore, Council agreed to re-issue the tender document with a view to awarding a new three-year contract.
The General Optical Council will consult on a new unified competency framework for optics in the UK. The proposed framework takes on board best practice from Australia and the work of the World Council of Optometry. Competencies would be expressed in ‘units’, ‘elements’, ‘performance criteria’ and ‘indicators’. The new framework will mean that competencies shared by optometrists and dispensing opticians will be stated in the same terms, and that there is a clear understanding of the meaning of key terms, such as ‘ability’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’. The content of the competencies will be the subject of a second consultation, planned for 2008.
GOC Chairman Rosie Varley put the spotlight on the professions’ achievements in the first cycle of statutory continuing education and training (CET) at today’s meeting of Council. Fewer than two per cent of registrants failed to meet minimum requirements. All categories of registrants demonstrated their commitment to maintaining standards, with a large number earning well beyond the minimum required number of points. The contribution of Deputy Registrar Dian Taylor, the cooperation and support of CET providers and optical bodies, and the work of Vantage Technologies were all recognised as contributing to the scheme’s success. Council members commented on the uneven uptake of CET across competency areas, expressing concerns in particular about the amount of CET in low vision. The need to consider the balance of ‘modalities’ – particularly between distance learning and face to face events – was also discussed. These will be amongst the issues reviewed as part of planning the future development of the scheme.
The General Optical Council today agreed new arrangements for entry to the pre-registration period for students who do not achieve the required standard for automatic progression. Students who fail to achieve a 2(ii) degree are currently required to sit the Professional Qualifying Exam (PQE) part one. There is a low success rate in this examination. In the new system, students will have the opportunity to re-enter the final year of the degree programme as a special student, and will progress to the PRP if they gain an average pass mark of 50 per cent in final exams. Deputy Registrar and Director of Education, Dian Taylor, stressed that the new arrangements would not reduce the standards required for entry to the PRP, but should provide better support for students to improve their results.
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