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GOC racks up its fee to 325 [pounds sterling] (but 45 [pounds sterling] less if you're a DO).

FEES for retention paid to the GOC from optometrists were agreed to rise significantly--from 219 [pounds sterling]to 325 [pounds sterling] from next April--this week.

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The Council met on Wednesday to decide 2010-2010 fees for optometrists and dispensing opticians following calls for practitioners to be able to make staged payments, and differential fees set for DOs in its consultation on fee proposals.

It decided to go ahead with differential fees, with DOs paying 280 [pounds sterling], and bodies corporate, like optometrists, paying 45 [pounds sterling] more at 325 [pounds sterling].

The rise in fees will no doubt be an unwelcome surprise to many practitioners, all of whom are fighting off difficult economic times.

Bob Hughes, chief executive of the AOP said: "Whilst the AOP recognises that the GOC is addressing past financial issues, as well as coping with an ever-increasing burden by government, in agreeing a differential fee for dispensing opticians it is regrettable that the GOC are allowing DOs to both be subsidised by optometrists and also downgraded as a profession, achieving the worst of both worlds.

"We have sought assurances from the GOC that they are not wilfully expanding their activities and that, at long last, they have in place a medium-term financial strategy to ensure that their fees start to level out for the following year, because a third successive massive increase would indicate an organisation now out of control:'

Expenditure by the Council is estimated to balloon in the next two years as proposed in a draft budget published on the GOC website, from 4.018m [pounds sterling] (2008-2009) to 5.074m [pounds sterling] in 2009-2010, and to 5.75m [pounds sterling] in 2010-2011.

In its draft budget registration costs will rise from 374,208 [pounds sterling] in 2009-2010 to 576,670 [pounds sterling] in 2010-2011, and council members and meetings costs wilt increase from 323,636 [pounds sterling] to 421,926 [pounds sterling].

However, its costs in staging its fitness to practise cases are estimated to fall--from 441,656 [pounds sterling] in 2009-10, to 400,754 [pounds sterling] in 2010-2011--as the Council hosts more cases at its Harley Street premises.

Nevertheless, in its business priorities costings for 2010-2011 the Council is looking to spend 91,000 [pounds sterling] in piloting online retention in its registration department--aiming in effect to end postal retention by registrants-which it calls a 'key modernisation project' and one that will 'address known issues with the retention process, to improve customer service, and to achieve long-term efficiencies'.

It is hoped that the GOC will receive a Doll grant of 96,000 [pounds sterling] for piloting revalidation and investigating how this will fit with its CET scheme.

Also the Council is looking to spend 60,000 [pounds sterling] to review the risks and benefit to the public of: optical service delivery to identify emerging mechanisms; the current regulatory regime for dispensing opticians; the latest regulatory regime for businesses or partnerships providing optical services in the UK.

Speaking about the increase in fees, David Hewlett, FODO chief executive, said: "This is a hard time for the whole optical sector but we are investing in the future and an independent regulator for optics, and FODO members understand that. The new GOC has opened up its plans, processes and budgeting to independent scrutiny in new and very welcome ways. As a result we are reassured that, although fees increases are never welcome, these increases are necessary and justified and try to meet the concerns of all:'

Elsewhere on its agenda the Council discussed code of conduct and whistleblowing, education visits, the GOC's Welsh Language Scheme.

* Further reaction to this story will be on our website.
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Title Annotation:NEWS; General Optical Council
Publication:Optometry Today
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 20, 2009
Words:611
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