The regulator for the optical professions in the UK, protecting the public by promoting high standards of education, performance and conduct amongst optical professionals
Complying with external investigations
There are a very small number of circumstances where you may encounter requests for information from authorities that have the power to request this from you as part of their role. These include:
the police and other statutory enforcement authorities such as HMRC;
the NHS Counter-Fraud Authority;
the court or a judge/coroner of the court; and
When asked for information about your patients by an authority in relation to an investigation, you should ask authorities to provide you with details about their power to request information (i.e. under which statute they are asking for the information), what specific information they require and why they want it. You should ask for them to provide this in writing.
Once you have received these details from the relevant authority, you may then disclose information to fulfil their request.
Such authorities do not have an automatic right to all information you hold about your patients and you should only ever disclose the minimum amount possible to fulfil the request. If you feel a request for information is too broad, or you are unsure about the legitimacy of the request, ask the requesting authority for more information and/or seek further advice from a colleague, professional body, indemnity insurer or independent legal adviser.
If there is a court order or warrant in place, you may be legally compelled to release certain information. If this is the case, you should seek legal advice or advice from your professional indemnity insurer.
When requesting information from you in respect of a fitness to practise investigation, the GOC will set out the statutory basis upon which the request is made. You should be aware that, as a GOC registrant, you have an obligation pursuant to the GOC Standards of Practice to co-operate with GOC investigations, but the provisions of paragraph 52 above apply equally to GOC requests for information.