We have been considering the matters raised in the petition requesting us to undertake a special review of the General Optical Council (GOC). It is important to note that the Authority will only consider undertaking such a review if it has serious concerns about the performance of a regulator.
We have obtained information from the GOC about how it developed and issued guidance for registrants about providing services during the Covid-19 pandemic. From the evidence we have seen, the GOC consulted with an appropriate range of stakeholder organisations. The guidance itself does not appear to place any group of registrants at an advantage compared to others. We have seen no evidence of undue influence by specific individual or business registrants. We did not consider that there were grounds for us to carry out a special investigation into alleged conflicts of interest in the GOC’s handling of this matter.
We note that the GOC has accepted, in its joint statement with the Association of Independent Optometrists, that its guidance could have been clearer. We understand that the GOC has received complaints in respect of alleged breaches of the guidance, which it is considering through its fitness to practise process. We are precluded by law from intervening in ongoing fitness to practise cases, though we can review the handling of closed cases as part of our performance review and can appeal cases heard by panels if we consider that the decision is insufficient to protect the public.
The other matters raised are, in our view, best considered by the GOC as part of its usual processes. We will review those processes and decisions as part of our performance review process.
We therefore do not consider that there is evidence which raises serious concerns about the performance of the GOC such that we should consider undertaking a special investigation into the alleged conflicts of interest or other matters raised. We will continue to monitor and report on the GOC’s performance through our annual performance reviews.
Our next performance review of the GOC starts in October 2020, and will look at the GOC’s performance from October 2019 to September 2020. We welcome feedback about the GOC’s performance. More information about our performance review process is available here. Individuals and organisations can share their experience of the GOC’s performance in 2019/20 with us here.