GOC commits to reduce barriers to community based eye care services

The General Optical Council (GOC), has today committed to working with the optical sector to reduce the barriers to the provision of community based eye care services.

GOC research shows that the vast majority of optometrists and dispensing opticians are keen to provide more eye care services in the community and that 97 percent of patients report high levels of satisfaction in the care provided by their optician. But it also reveals a number of barriers that must be overcome before the shift to community based health care can take place.

Currently only a third of patients and the public view opticians as healthcare providers and now new research has shown that 45 per cent of opticians have faced pressure to meet commercial targets at the expense of patient care at some point in their careers. The GOC’s survey of over 4,000 registrants also found that 41 per cent of practitioners had come under pressure to sell a product of service that the patient did not need.

Samantha Peters, GOC chief executive and registrar, said: “Public satisfaction with opticians remains extremely high and it is clear from our previous research that patients are confident in the standard of care they will receive from their practitioner. But if the professions are going to deliver more eye care services in the community – which has enormous potential benefits – then the public need to be confident that commercial pressures will not compromise patient safety. Many patients still see their optician as a retailer rather than a healthcare provider and that perception needs to change if the professions are going to have a greater role in delivering eye health care in the community.

“Our role is to work with the professions to ensure that patient safety and public confidence in the professions are upheld during what could be a period of rapid change for the optical sector. We are consulting on the future of education and training for opticians and I would encourage all stakeholders to get involved in our Education Strategic Review. We must also ensure there is an effective model of business regulation in place to provide assurance to patients and the public that opticians can take on an advanced healthcare role.”

The second volume of the GOC’s registrant survey report also shows that some 45 per cent of registrants would not feel comfortable raising a fitness to practise concern with the GOC, and 40 per cent would not feel comfortable raising a concern with their employer.

Samantha Peters added, “All healthcare practitioners have a professional responsibility to raise concerns that put patient safety at risk. We always handle any concerns raised sensitively and respecting confidentiality. Registrants’ lack of confidence in raising concerns creates a challenge for us as a regulator and we need to raise awareness of the robust processes we have in place to protect those with a concern to raise.”