The GOC has an Interim Orders Panel which examines situations where the GOC considers that a Registrant’s registration should be restricted whilst allegations faced by an optical professional remain unresolved.
Unfortunately, all too often the first time a Registrant knows that they are under investigation by the GOC is when they receive notice of an Interim Orders Panel hearing. It is likely that only short notice is provided and the hearing will take place shortly after the Registrant receives the notice.
An Interim Orders Panel will not make a factual finding in relation to the substantive allegation.
Powers of an GOC Interim Orders Panel
An Interim Orders Panel has the power to make the following decisions:
• It can make no order;
• It can impose conditions on an optical professional’s registration;
• It can suspend the optical professional’s registration.
The Interim Orders Panel should only impose restrictions on an optical professional’s registration in the following circumstances:
• To protect members of the public;
• If it is in the public interest, for example, to preserve the public trust in the profession and/or to maintain good standards of conduct and performance;
• If it is in the interests of the Registrant.
GOC Interim Orders Panel Review Hearings
Where an Interim Orders Panel has made an order to suspend or impose conditions on a registrant’s registration, an Interim Orders Panel Review Hearing must review the order every 6 months.
An Interim Orders Panel can only make an order to suspend or impose conditions on an optical professional’s registration for a maximum period of 18 months. Following this, if an Interim Orders Panel wishes to extend an order it needs to direct the GOC Registrar to apply to the High Court for permission to extend the order for a further 12 months.
Factors taken into consideration
An Interim Orders Panel will take the following factors into consideration:
• The seriousness of the risk to the public if the registrant was to continue to practise unrestricted;
• The nature of the evidence against the registrant;
• The likelihood of the alleged misconduct being repeated;
• The likely risk of serious damage to the public’s confidence in the profession in the event that the registrant continues to hold unrestricted registration whilst the allegations remain unresolved;
• The level of insight demonstrated by the registrant;
• If the registrant has complied with any undertakings or conditions previously imposed;
• The registrant’s previous history, if any, with the GOC;
• Anything else deemed relevant.
Types of Allegations which may be referred to an Interim Orders Panel
All cases referred to an interim orders panel are treated individually.
The following list provides examples of situations where a registrant may find themselves referred to an Interim Orders Panel:
• A series of failures to provide a proper standard of care or one particularly serious failure;
• A serious lack of basic knowledge or skills;
• Serious criminal allegations, particularly those involving allegations of sexual or violent offences or serious dishonesty offences;
• Where a registrant has been suspended or erased by a Fitness to Practise Panel, where immediate suspension or erasure has not yet taken place.
If you have been referred to an Interim Orders Panel, contact one of our expert lawyers in the MedicAssistanceScheme, for advice and representation. We can make submissions on your behalf before the Interim Orders Panel, whilst safeguarding your position in respect of the substantive allegation faced.