COVID-19 statements

Closed 7 Jan 2021

Opened 15 Oct 2020

Feedback updated 28 May 2021

We asked

Our COVID-19 statements consultation sought views on how we could continue to support our registrants and the optical sector throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as different parts of the UK experienced local and potentially national restrictions now and in the future.

In particular, we asked for views on:

  • a proposed framework for when our existing COVID-19 statements should apply going forwards, linked to The College of Optometrists’ red/amber/green classification system;
  • the content and impact of our existing COVID-19 statements; and
  • whether there were further areas of GOC regulations, legislation or guidance that needed to change or be put in place to ensure more effective regulation in the future, either during a pandemic or as a result of the pandemic.

You said

Our consultation closed in January 2021 and we received 72 responses.

We commissioned Enventure Research to analyse the responses and the report is available to view on our website

We did

We published our response to the consultation on our website on 28 May 2021.

We decided to align all of our statements to The College of Optometrists’ red/amber/green classification system.

We reviewed all of our statements on the basis of feedback from the consultation and updated each of them, clearly indicating the phase of the pandemic in which they apply.

Our response and the updated COVID-19 statements are available on our COVID-19 latest information webpage.

Overview

This consultation seeks views on how the GOC can continue to support our registrants and the optical sector throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as different parts of the UK experience local and potentially national restrictions now and in the future.

In particular, we would like your views on:

  • a proposed framework for when our existing COVID-19 statements should apply going forwards, linked to The College of Optometrists’ red/amber/green classification system;
  • the content and impact of our existing COVID-19 statements; and
  • whether there are further areas of GOC regulations, legislation or guidance that need to change or be put in place to ensure more effective regulation in the future, either during a pandemic or as a result of the pandemic.

All current statements will remain in place pending the outcome of this consultation and review dates have therefore been extended to 31 January 2021 (except for the CET provision statement which has been extended to 31 December 2021).

Please see the 'related documents' section at the bottom of the page for the full consultation document and impact assessment.

[Paragraph added on 11/12/20] As referenced in the consultation document, we applied for some emergency legislation to underpin our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have now received confirmation from the Department of Health and Social Care that a new statutory instrument will come into effect on 14 December 2020, which has the effect of amending the GOC’s Committee Constitution Rules 2005, Registration Rules 2005 and Fitness to Practise Rules 2013. This can be found on the rules and regulations page of our website entitled ‘The General Optical Council (Committee Constitution, Registration and Fitness to Practise) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Rules Order of Council 2020’. There are some questions in the consultation asking for views on the impact of implementing the new legislation.

Why we are consulting

During the COVID-19 emergency, we realised that some of our legislation and regulations may have prevented care being delivered effectively during a pandemic, particularly remote care, which was an important part of keeping infection rates low and reducing risk to patients.

We were also being asked specific questions regarding how our standards and legislation applied to practice during the emergency. To help support registrants, we published a series of statements aimed at removing unnecessary regulatory barriers, clarifying certain areas of practice and bolstering the guidance we normally give on our standards for optometrists, dispensing opticians, students and optical businesses.

Some key areas covered were remote care delivery and infection prevention and control. We also sought to reassure our registrants and the sector that we would support them when they acted in good conscience and exercised professional judgement for the public benefit.

Due to the need to implement change quickly, we were only able to consult a small number of key stakeholders in the optical sector and healthcare commissioners prior to implementation.

Their contributions and feedback were invaluable but we acknowledge the importance of seeking a wider range of views from our registrants, patients and the public in developing our regulatory processes and policies, and now propose to undertake a full public consultation on these statements to:

  • ensure they remain effective; and
  • determine how they should apply in different phases of the current or any future pandemic. 

We are also interested in whether some of these statements should become more general regulatory policy, independent of COVID-19, and in some cases whether changes should be made to our legislation.

Consequently, we feel that now is the right time to seek wider views on:

  • the content of our COVID-19 statements;
  • when the statements should apply during different phases of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • the impact and effectiveness of our COVID-19 statements; and
  • the impact of securing emergency legal powers to more effectively deal with pandemics and similar emergencies in the future.

The public consultation will last for a period of 12 weeks.