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Standards of Practice for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians

The General Optical Council (GOC) plays a pivotal role in overseeing the practice of optometrists and dispensing opticians, setting stringent standards to safeguard the public, and guiding practitioners. These standards are pivotal in defining the expected level of care and professionalism in the optical profession. They ensure that eye care is delivered by qualified professionals who adhere to rigorous clinical protocols, thereby protecting patient safety and fostering trust in the profession. What do these standards entail, and how do they impact your practice as an optometrist or dispensing optician? 

This blog is an informative cornerstone for optical students and a timely reminder for seasoned practitioners. It explores the foundational standards that shape the roles of eye specialists within the UK's optical industry.

Your Role as a Healthcare Professional

As a healthcare professional, your role extends beyond providing care to maintaining high standards that ensure patient safety and uphold professionalism. You are professionally accountable and personally responsible for your practice and actions or inactions, regardless of any direction or guidance from an employer or colleague. This means you must always be able to justify your decisions and actions. If someone raises concerns about your fitness to practice, the standards of practice will be referred to when deciding if any action is necessary. You will need to demonstrate that your decision-making was informed by these standards and that you acted in the best interests of your patients.

The Standards of Practice

As an optometrist or dispensing optician, your professional responsibilities are clear. It is imperative that you:

  1. Listen to patients and ensure they are at the heart of the decisions made about their care.
  2. Communicate effectively with your patients.
  3. Obtain valid consent.
  4. Show care and compassion for your patients.
  5. Keep your knowledge and skills up-to-date
  6. Recognise and work within your limits of competence.
  7. Conduct appropriate assessments, examinations, treatments, and referrals.
  8. Maintain adequate patient records.
  9. Ensure that supervision is undertaken appropriately and complies with the law.
  10. Work collaboratively with colleagues in the interests of patients.
  11. Protect and safeguard patients, colleagues, and others from harm.
  12. Ensure a safe environment for your patients.
  13. Show respect and fairness to others, and do not discriminate.
  14. Maintain confidentiality and respect your patients’ privacy.
  15. Maintain appropriate boundaries with others.
  16. Be honest and trustworthy.
  17. Do not damage the reputation of your profession through your conduct.
  18. Respond to complaints effectively.
  19. Be candid when things have gone wrong.

What is staying?

  1. Format and structure
  2. The number of standards
  3. The purpose of standards

What is changing?

  1. There are going to be additional statements in the introductory section.
  2. The existing standards will be revised to provide clarity and/or strengthen the standards.
  3. New sub-standards relating to emerging issues.

Stay tuned for updates as the GOC continues to refine the standards, ensuring that optometry and dispensing optics are at the forefront of patient care excellence.

Monitoring Compliance: Vigilance in Practice

Upholding these high standards necessitates a robust system to monitor compliance. The GOC employs a variety of mechanisms, from routine inspections and audits to patient feedback and peer reviews. These tools help the council ensure that the care provided to patients is safe and effective.

When standards are not met, the GOC has the authority to intervene. Addressing violations may involve several steps, such as issuing warnings, mandating additional training, or, in severe instances, removing practitioners from the register. This disciplinary function underscores the GOC's commitment to protecting the public and reinforces patients' trust in their eye care providers.


The General Optical Council (GOC) is the custodian of quality in eye care. Through certification, licensure, and diligent monitoring, the organisation ensures that the standards of practice for optometrists and dispensing opticians are not just abstract ideals but essential tenets of everyday clinical life. The well-defined standards it upholds serve as a beacon, guiding practitioners to deliver care of the highest quality, ensuring patient safety, and fostering trust within the community.

For optometrists and dispensing opticians, adherence to these standards is not just a regulatory requirement but a mark of dedication to their profession and patients. It is through this lens of excellence and accountability that eye care professionals make a profound impact on the lives they touch.

Stay informed, stay dedicated, and advance with confidence, knowing that your collective commitment to these standards will continue to uphold the integrity and distinction of your profession.

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