New fitness to practise rules come into force

New fitness to practise rules intended to speed up the handling of complaints received by the General Optical Council (GOC) came into force today. The GOC has also announced the appointment of 15 case examiners who will play a central role in the new process.

The introduction of case examiners is one of the key changes under the new rules. Pairs of case examiners (one registrant and one lay) will work together to decide whether a case should be referred to a fitness to practise hearing.

The investigation committee, which currently considers all complaints, will still decide on cases where the case examiners do not agree or where a formal assessment of a registrant’s health or performance is required.

Other changes include a greater ability for the regulator to fast-track cases by allowing the Registrar to refer the most serious cases directly for a fitness to practise hearing.

Mandie Lavin, GOC director of regulation, said: “The new rules will help us better protect the public by acting on complaints more quickly. This will also benefit registrants by shortening what can be a long and stressful process.

“The process will remain as fair and rigorous as before, and the decision-making will be subject to a quality assurance process to ensure proportionality and statutory compliance. Registrants will continue to have an opportunity to respond to all allegations made against them and all final decisions will be made independently, supported by expert and legal advice.”

The GOC has appointed ten registrants and five lay people as case examiners.