GOC to address fitness to practise process backlogs

Lesley Longstone, GOC chief executive and registrar

The General Optical Council (GOC) has met 22 of the 24 Standards of Good Regulation in the Professional Standards Authority’s (PSA) latest Performance Review 2017/18.

The GOC met all of the relevant standards of good regulation for its Standards and Education work, and made progress with the management of FTP complaints. The PSA also noted the improvements the GOC had made to its FTP processes, including the introduction of acceptance criteria to assess whether a complaint might constitute a FTP allegation, and changes to the triage process used to determine whether a full FTP investigation would be opened.

However, the GOC did not meet the standards related to data errors on the register, and the total time taken to process FTP complaints.

Lesley Longstone, GOC chief executive and registrar, said: “We welcome the Authority’s report and their feedback on our work to protect the public. We have endeavoured to improve the initial assessment activity we undertake at triage stage when we receive an FTP complaint, so we are pleased to see this is recognised in us meeting the relevant standard.

“In respect of the data errors, we have now improved our standard operating procedures to ensure that post hearing, amendments to the register or registrant record are made at the appropriate time. We are confident that these improvements will address the Authority’s concerns in this area.

“However, we recognise that we still have significant work to do in addressing the backlogs and delays within our FTP process. We are confident that our updated acceptance criteria and enhanced triage process will ensure that we only open investigations into those concerns that could impact on a registrant’s fitness to practice or to undertake training.

“We are committed to reducing the time it takes to investigate FTP concerns, and will ensure that cases are regularly reviewed and closed at an earlier stage where there is no ongoing risk to the public.

“Currently our ability to hold FTP hearings is reduced by the limited availability of hearing panel members. We are pleased, therefore, that we have now secured the legislative change needed to appoint extra panel members. This will allow us to hold more FTP hearings simultaneously and speed up the process of dealing with complaints for the benefit of patients and registrants.”

GOC chair, Gareth Hadley, added: “Earlier this year the government published its response to its 2017 consultation: Promoting professionalism, reforming regulation. There was a welcome emphasis on modernising FTP processes so that regulators can make FTP decisions more quickly, to provide an early resolution for patients and registrants. We look forward to getting more detail about their proposals and taking those changes forward.”

Read the  full report is available here.