GOC response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) emergency – 19 March 2020

GOC response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) emergency

The General Optical Council (GOC) understands that many of its registrants and stakeholders will have questions about the impact of COVID-19 and wants to ensure that everyone in the optical professions is aware of the steps the GOC has taken in light of the emergency.

Support for registrants

The GOC has established a dedicated COVID-19 page on its public website where it is directing registrants to the latest Government guidance.

Along with all other healthcare regulators, the GOC has signed a joint regulatory statement which acknowledges that registrants will need to act differently and deliver care in different ways during the COVID-19 emergency in line with Government and public health guidance.

The GOC will take account of this in fulfilling its regulatory functions and will also be publishing a series of optical sector specific statements to reassure registrants that when they act in good conscience and exercise professional judgement for the public benefit, the GOC will support them.

Today, the GOC has published a new statement on the supply of spectacles and contact lenses, which allows registrants to use their professional judgement to decide whether it is necessary for a patient to attend for a sight test or contact lens fitting/check in order to supply spectacles and contact lenses. This follows the publication of a statement for education providers yesterday on the ability to adapt education delivery approaches during this time.

The GOC has also signed a joint regulatory statement on remote consultation and prescribing which is particularly relevant during this period of social distancing.

Further statements to support optometrists, dispensing opticians, optical students, optical businesses, the education sector and other stakeholders will be published over the coming days and weeks.

GOC office

In line with Government advice, GOC staff are now working remotely instead of in the office, which is now closed to visitors. The GOC will no longer take telephone calls and all enquiries should be made by email. You can visit the Contact Us page on the GOC website for a full list of email addresses within the organisation.

Homeworkers will not always have secure environments in order to have potentially sensitive and confidential telephone calls or take personal information and so this approach ensures that people’s personal data is protected. In some instances, where it is essential and where a confidential environment can be guaranteed, the GOC may make calls.

The GOC urges those wishing to communicate with them to send communications electronically in order to minimise post and ensure it is dealt with as effectively and quickly as possible. This includes supplier invoices, which the GOC will endeavour to pay as quickly as possible.

GOC Fitness to practise (FTP) hearings

To ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone concerned, the GOC will no longer be conducting office-based hearings. The GOC is exploring options to support remote hearings and will issue a statement on this shortly.

A message from GOC Chief Executive and Registrar, Lesley Longstone

“In these extraordinary times, we are fortunate that in all four countries of the United Kingdom we have a group of exceptionally well qualified eye care professionals on whom the general public and fellow healthcare professionals can rely. Uncertain times mean that our registrants may be called upon to work at the limits of their scope of practice and vary their practice for protracted periods of time and in challenging circumstances.

With our COVID-19 statements we hope to reassure practitioners, academics and students that when they act in good conscience, for the public benefit, exercising professional judgement in all of the circumstances that apply, the GOC will support them.

We will also continue to closely monitor and follow government guidance and act accordingly. We want to thank everyone for their cooperation.”

To read the latest statements and guidance, visit the dedicated COVID-19 page on the GOC website.