The General Optical Council (GOC) has approved publication of the new Standards for Optical Businesses, following the amendment to the standards to address feedback received from stakeholders during the consultation. The new Standards for Optical Businesses make clearer GOC expectations of business registrants and are necessary to reflect changes in optical practice, recommendations from recent health enquiries, emerging technologies and the increased prevalence of multidisciplinary working.
In a recent meeting, Council reflected on the work GOC has done to address points raised by patients, practitioners and businesses during the consultation including requests to make the language in the standards more specific and questions in relation to whether the standards applied to online businesses. The GOC has addressed these concerns by rewording some standards to ensure that they can be achieved in a variety of business settings and where possible standards have been made more specific, although in some areas flexibility is requiredto allow businesses to use their judgement when applying the standards to their particular circumstances.
The consultation received responses from a wide range of stakeholders. Of the 351 unique responses received to the survey, 87 per cent were from registrants and the public, while the remaining 13 per cent were from organisations, including registered optical businesses, non-registered optical businesses and optical representative bodies and associations. Independent research agency, Pye Tait Consulting, conducted the analysis of the responses and carried out interviews and focus groups with patients, registrants and optical businesses.
Analysis of the consultation findings show high approval levels from respondents. Key results from the survey undertaken as part of the consultation included 70 per cent of respondents agreeing that the standards can be applied by and to different types of optical businesses and a further 81 per cent of respondents agreeing that the GOC’s expectations of optical businesses are clear. Many respondents also reported that the draft proposals reflect ‘what businesses do anyway.’
Feedback from patients also highlighted the importance of business standards, with 84 per cent of patients interviewed saying they would rather ‘use an optical business that meets a certain set of standards, than one that does not’.
The GOC will be undertaking a range of activities to promote the benefits of business registration and will also be pursuing legislative reform to ensure that all businesses carrying out restricted functions are required to register with the GOC. The GOC want to create a more level playing field for all optical businesses and give both patients and practitioners assurance that all businesses are regulated. Currently only limited companies operating as optical businesses which use protected titles such as optometrist or optician, must register with the GOC.
The new Standards for Optical Businesses will be published in April 2019. The new standards will then come into force in October 2019.