Who can complain about a GOC registrant?
Concerns about GOC registrants are generally raised by patients, primary care organisations, colleagues or employers, but the GOC does have powers to instigate an investigation where no complaint has been made.
When can the GOC take action?
The GOC will investigate cases against a registrant where an allegation suggests that a registrant’s fitness to practise may be impaired. This may be for a number of reasons, such as:
- Poor performance;
- A criminal conviction or caution;
- A determination by another regulatory body.
How will I know I am under investigation?
Following the receipt of a complaint or information, the GOC Investigation Committee can gather further evidence without informing the registrant of these enquiries. However, once the GOC Investigation Committee decides that an investigation is necessary, it must inform the registrant.
The first time a registrant may become aware that they are the subject of a GOC investigation, is often by way of a letter from the GOC confirming that a complaint or information has been received, which has triggered a GOC investigation. This letter must contain details of the complaint and invite the registrant to provide a written response within 28 days.
Response to complaint
If you receive a letter from the GOC, confirming that you are subject to an investigation, then contact one of our expert solicitors on Richard for urgent advice.
A tactical decision will need to be made with you as to whether or not to reply to the GOC at this stage. If it is appropriate to reply, the content of the response needs to be prepared carefully, as any comment made at this preliminary stage of the investigation will be compared with later submissions and any inconsistencies will be detrimental to a registrant’s case.
At this preliminary stage in the investigation the GOC will not disclose the full facts of the allegation. Therefore there will still be an opportunity for the registrant to provide a full response at a later stage, once the precise nature of the allegations and the evidence is known.
The Investigation Committee have the power to direct a registrant for a health or performance assessment. If this decision is taken, the committee must inform the registrant of this and confirm details of any directions made or hearing dates set. If a registrant fails to comply with these directions, the committee will draw such inferences as deemed appropriate.
Criminal proceedings leading to GOC investigations
General Optical Council registrants can sometimes find themselves the subject of a criminal investigation or criminal proceedings. It is essential for registrants to obtain legal advice from lawyers with expertise in both criminal matters and essentially also in GOC proceedings.
Richard Nelson LLP draws from a team of expert solicitors who have experience not only in dealing with GOC matters, but also in criminal matters. That criminal experience includes:
- Motoring offences;
- Alcohol-related offences;
- Sexual offences;
- Dishonesty offences.
Our expert solicitors can represent medical professionals in the police station, the Magistrates’ Court and the Crown Court. At all times they’re mindful of the impact that criminal proceedings can have upon a medical professional’s career, reputation and personal life.
If, as a result of criminal proceedings, a medical professional finds themselves in restricted financial circumstances, they may be eligible for legal aid to pay for representation before the criminal courts. Richard Nelson LLP solicitors have the requisite contracts in place to be able to provide legal services under the legal aid scheme, where applicable.
The following options are available to the Investigation Committee:
- Conclude the case with no further action;
- Ask for further investigations to be carried out;
- Issue a warning;
- Send a letter of advice to the registrant;
- Invite the registrant to a voluntary performance review;
- Refer the case to the Fitness to Practise Committee for a Fitness to Practise Panel Hearing to be listed.
If you have received notice of, or believe that you are under investigation by the GOC then please contact one of our dedicated solicitors for expert advice on your position.
Get in touch
Richard Nelson LLP's lawyers offer impartial advice to opticians regarding GOC Investigations and related matters. Contact us today to speak to one of our GOC lawyers in confidence without obligation: