The General Optical Council (GOC) has a Fitness to Practise Committee which hears evidence and decides whether a registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.
Once an allegation has been referred to a Fitness to Practise Committee, the registrant must be served as ‘soon as reasonably practicable’ with notice of the hearing, which should detail the particulars of the allegation/s.
The GOC aim to hear cases as soon as possible after the decision to refer to a Fitness to Practise panel has been made. The GOC must deal with cases without undue delay but it may still take many months for a hearing to take place.
Three Stage Fitness to Practise Process
The Fitness to Practise Committee will follow a three stage process as follows:
- Fact Finding.The committee will hear evidence from both the presenting officer and the registrant. Witnesses can be called for either side. The Committee will then decide whether the allegations have been proven or not. If the allegations are proven, then the Committee will move to consider the second stage, impairment.
- Impairment.The Committee will consider whether a registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired. This is not the same as a finding of misconduct, as a registrant may be guilty of misconduct but found, by the Committee, not to impaired. If the Committee finds that a registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired then they will move on to the third stage, sanctions.
- Sanctions.The purpose of any sanction imposed is not to punish the registrant, but to protect the public. The following sanctions can be imposed by the Committee:
• In exceptional circumstances the Panel may consider it is appropriate to take no further action;
• Issue a warning against the registrant;
• Impose conditions on a registrant’s registration, for up to three years;
• Impose a financial penalty, not exceeding £50,000, in all cases except those involving an allegation referring to health matters;
• The committee may suspend the registrant name from the Register for up to 12 months;
• The Committee may seek to agree undertakings with the doctor;
• In the most serious of cases, the Committee may erase the registrant’s name from the GOC Register.
If your case has been referred to a Fitness to Practise Committee, then please contact one of the dedicated solicitors from the MedicAssistanceScheme who can provide expert advice and representation.