GOC regulations & standards

GOC regulations & standards

R1.1.1 Dispensing opticians shall always place the welfare of the public, who require their professional services, before all other considerations. They shall behave in a proper manner towards their patients, the GOC, ABDO and professional colleagues and shall not bring them or the profession into disrepute. (See Appendix A – GOC Standards of Practice). They must maintain a high standard of behaviour, integrity and competence, bringing to bear all their knowledge, skill and expertise in serving the public. Dispensing opticians should be aware that conviction for any non-optical offence may cause them to appear before the GOC for bringing the profession into disrepute, and subsequently be reported to ABDO. The GOC Standards of Practice are those against which you will be judged in any GOC Fitness to Practice hearing.

R1.1.2 GOC Standards

R1.2.1 In line with GOC Standards of Practice (see R1.1.2 ) ABDO endorses the following:

  • Give patients information in a way they can understand. Use your professional judgement to adapt your language and communication approach as appropriate.
  • Patients should know in advance what to expect from the consultation and have the opportunity to ask questions or change their mind before proceeding.
  • Be alert to unspoken signals which could indicate a patient’s lack of understanding, discomfort or lack of consent.
  • Ensure that the people you are responsible for are able to communicate effectively with patients and their carers, colleagues and others.
  • Ensure that patients or their carers have all the information they need to safely use, administer or look after any optical devices, drugs or other treatment that they have been prescribed or directed to use in order to manage their eye conditions. This includes being actively shown how to use any of the above.
  • Be sensitive and supportive when dealing with relatives or other people close to the patient.

R1.2.2 Members are advised to refer to the GOC’s consent guidance here.

Also copied below is the relevant section from the GOC document:

Standards of Practice for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians

  1. Obtain valid consent

3.1 Obtain valid consent before examining a patient, providing treatment or involving patients in teaching and research activities. For consent to be valid it must be given:

3.1.1 Voluntarily.

3.1.2 By the patient or someone authorised to act on the patient’s behalf.

3.1.3 By a person with the capacity to consent.

3.1.4 By an appropriately informed person. Informed means explaining what you are going to do and ensuring that patients are aware of any risks and options in terms of examination, treatment, sale or supply of optical appliances or research they are participating in. This includes the right of the patient to refuse treatment or have a chaperone or interpreter present.

3.2 Be aware of your legal obligations in relation to consent, including the differences in the provision of consent for children, young people and vulnerable adults. When working in a nation of the UK other than where you normally practise, be aware of any differences in consent law and apply these to your practice.

3.3 Ensure that the patient’s consent remains valid at each stage of the examination or treatment and during any research in which they are participating.’

R1.3.1 The GOC have produce guidance to support registrants when they find themselves in situations where they need to consider their professional requirement to “speak up” also known as “whistleblowing”. This may be when patient or public safety is at risk or where they have observed something that appears seriously wrong or not in accordance with accepted standards. The guidance is split into two parts-part one is guidance for registrants and part two focuses on guidance for businesses.

The guidance can be found here.



R1.4.1 The General Optical Council (GOC) was established in 1958 to promote high standards of professional education and professional conduct among opticians and to carry out some additional duties assigned by the Opticians Act. The GOC discharges its function in relation to professional conduct by means of its powers to require the registration of qualified dispensing opticians and to enforce standards by means of its disciplinary machinery. Under all circumstances it is the dispensing optician’s responsibility to register and to maintain registration.                                                                           

R1.4.2 Registration with the GOC is essential for full scope of practice. The title dispensing optician is a registered title and can only be used by registered dispensing opticians. The GOC shall maintain a register of persons undertaking training as dispensing opticians. A person who is undertaking training provided by an approved training establishment or obtaining practical experience in the work of a dispensing optician shall have his/her name in the appropriate register. For further information on the use of protected titles see Opticians Act 1989, part 4, section 28.

R1.4.3  Online access to relevant sections can be downloaded here

R.1.5.1 Dispensing opticians must recognise their limitations by seeking further advice and guidance; or refer elsewhere when appropriate. In particular, those wishing to practise in specialised areas must be sure of their ability to do so, by obtaining specialist qualifications as available. All dispensing opticians have a duty to maintain and develop their professional competence throughout their careers, since only in this way can they continue to offer the best possible service to the public.

R.1.6.1 Statutory regulation does not permit the dispensing of spectacle prescriptions by unqualified persons to children under 16, and patients who are registered as severely visually impaired or visually impaired (blind or partially sighted). (Opticians Act 1989, s.27). Sales of spectacles to persons in these classes can only be made by or under the supervision of a registered practitioner.

R.1.6.2 Various statutory restrictions apply to dispensing by unregistered persons. (Sale of Optical Appliances Order 1984). One of the restrictions is that prescriptions must be less than 2 years old.

R.1.6.3 Online access to relevant sections can be downloaded here

R1.7.1 The professional activities of registered dispensing opticians are regulated in five ways: by education and training to standards set by ABDO; by ABDO as the professional body with its powers for peer review; by fitness to practise procedures at the instigation of the GOC; by criminal law; by civil law – litigation.                                               

R1.7.2 If any restricted function is carried out under supervision, policies should be in place so that it is clear, on a daily basis, which registered professional is responsible for the supervision. The policies should ensure that supervisors are able, practically, to fulfill their supervisory role.

R1.8.1 Under Section 28 of the Opticians Act it is a criminal offence for a person who is not appropriately registered to use any of the titles dispensing optician, registered optician, enrolled optician or optician. However in the case of the use of ‘optician’ without a qualifying adjective the user will have a defence against a charge if it can be proved that in the circumstances of the title’s use it would be unreasonable for people to believe that the user was registered.

R1.8.2 Under section 24 of the Opticians Act 1989 it is a criminal offence for a registered dispensing optician to test the sight of another person with intent to prescribe an optical appliance. However, when contact lenses are fitted by registered dispensing opticians in accordance with the advice in Section 3 of these guidelines, when a refraction by a registered dispensing optician forms part of an LVA examination, or when certain types of low vision aids are supplied, the use of techniques to check their performance does not constitute the testing of sight within the meaning of the Opticians Act.

R1.8.3 By Section 25 of the 1989 Act it is a criminal act for any person (other than in the excepted cases) who is not a registered medical practitioner or an optometrist or a registered dispensing optician with the appropriate qualifications, to fit contact lenses. The excepted cases are medical students and, by the Rules on the Fitting of Contact Lenses 1985, students training as opticians (optometrists or dispensing opticians); those engaged on approved basic training and pre-registration students. Such optical trainees, however, may fit contact lenses only when the fitting is done in the course of obtaining practical experience under supervision of a registered medical practitioner, optometrist or contact lens optician. It should be noted that contact lens fitting under the above circumstances may not continue if four unsuccessful attempts of any of the contact lens theory or practical examinations have occurred.

R1.8.4 By Section 27 of the Act it is a criminal offence for optical appliances designed to correct a defect of sight to be sold (with some exceptions which include sales for the wholesale trade, for export and antiques) unless the sale is:

  1. Effected by or under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner, optometrist or registered dispensing optician.
  2. An excluded sale, that is a sale for a person not under the age of 16, of spectacles which have two single vision lenses of the same positive spherical power not exceeding four dioptres, where the sale is wholly for the purpose of correcting, remedying or relieving the condition known as presbyopia.
  3. Exempt by reason of the Sale of Optical Appliances Order 1984, that is, where the appliance is not a contact lens or low vision aid, where the sale is not for a person under 16, or who is registered severely sight impaired [blind] or sight impaired [partially sighted], and where the purchaser produces a prescription not more than two years old signed by a registered medical practitioner or registered optometrist.

R1.8.5 These sections, for the most part, do not penalise registered opticians. It is important to note, however, that if a dispensing optician’s registration is revoked or suspended (for example, because of non-payment of GOC fees or the effect of a fitness to practise order) he/she will be liable to prosecution if he/she continues to practise as though registered during the period of revocation or suspension.

R1.8.6 It should also be noted that it is a serious and criminal offence to steal from an employer.

R1.9.1 A registered dispensing optician who becomes involved with the GOC fitness to practise procedures should seek the advice of the Association at an early stage. Legal protection and professional indemnity cover in such an event is a benefit of membership.

R1.9.2 The General Optical Council appoints selected members to its Investigation Committee. This committee investigates an allegation made against a registrant. It decides whether the complaint ought to be considered by the Fitness to Practise Committee, or by the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS), or whether the allegation warrants no further action

R1.9.3 The Fitness to Practise Committee is independent of the membership of the General Optical Council. It receives evidence and adjudicates on allegations made against a registrant following referral from the Investigation Committee. Other than in exceptional circumstances it deliberates and adjudicates in public. Its powers in the case of a guilty verdict range from an erasure order or suspension from the register or, if appropriate, conditional registration.

R1.9.4 The committee may impose either in addition or instead of it, a financial penalty order currently not exceeding £50,000. In reaching a decision the committee will, in appropriate cases, take into account ABDO’s Advice and Guidelines.

R1.9.5 If either the Fitness to Practise Committee or the Investigation Committee finds a registered dispensing optician’s fitness to practice is not impaired, they may nevertheless give the registrant a warning regarding his/her future conduct or performance. Such cases may be referred to the ABDO to invoke a Performance Review Procedure (PRP) although the GOC still maintains overall responsibility.

Updated 24/05/24