The General Optical Council (GOC) has today welcomed the Professional Standards Authority’s (The Authority) annual performance review report. The GOC has met 21 of The Authority’s 24 Standards of Good Regulation, including all of those for standards and for education.
The Authority particularly praised the GOC’s enhanced CET scheme, citing independent research about the effectiveness of peer review and noting that it is ‘an area of good practice’ that ‘should lead to better care for patients’.
The research showed that almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of practitioners have made changes to their practice after participating in case-based peer review discussions as part of their CET. Most optometrists also reported increased self-confidence after taking part.
Samantha Peters, chief executive and registrar, said: “We welcome The Authority’s report and their feedback on our work to protect the public. It is heartening to see them recognise the enormous positive impact that peer review has had on the professions and on patient safety.
“We have a clear plan in place addressing the areas where we didn’t meet standards this year. In particular, we understand the utmost importance of continuing our work to speed up the fitness to practise process. We have reduced the time taken to impose an Interim Order once we have information about the need from 4.5 weeks to just 3, and this is really boosting public protection through quick action in cases that present the most serious patient safety risk.
“But, against the backdrop of a 48 per cent increase in our caseload, we have not yet reduced the overall time we take to deal with complaints as we would like to have done. We are determined to reduce this time in the interests of patients and registrants alike.
“We are carrying out a review of our fitness to practise process and are reviewing the type and amount of resources needed to improve our capacity to progress cases. We have put some improvements in place already. We are appointing more performance assessors and case examiners to ensure we progress cases faster.
“We are working closely with the main defence bodies to ensure we are cooperating effectively to progress cases. And our case examiners are now bedded in so we expect to see some improvement in the speed of progressing cases over the coming year. However, it will take longer to achieve our target of resolving the great majority of cases within a year.
“We would be further aided in efficient complaints handling through change to some of the outdated legislation that constrains our work. Threshold criteria would mean we do not have to investigate cases where there is no risk to patient safety or public confidence in the professions. Consensual disposal of cases, where a registrant admits fault and accepts a proposed sanction, and voluntary erasure for registrants with health concerns (so they don’t have to go through the full fitness to practise process) would also help us to work more efficiently. With that in mind, we were extremely disappointed that the Professional Accountability Bill was not in the Queen’s Speech and we urge the Government to legislate at the earliest opportunity.
“Meanwhile we have commissioned an independent audit of our registration processes, which has given us a good report with a few improvement areas. We are addressing these by improving our quality assurance and providing extra staff training.
“New information security and incident reporting policies will help us to address the small number of data breaches we had last year. In respect of these breaches we quickly identified them and our staff took fast and appropriate action to minimise any risk. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) did not take any enforcement action in respect of the breaches. Nonetheless we remain committed to doing our utmost to prevent such incidents.
“We look forward to continuing to work together with The Authority to protect patients and the public.”