1. Why do you think the new Standards for Optical Businesses are important?
The new business standards for optical businesses are important for a number of reasons. Namely because they provide clear expectations for business owners and registrant directors regarding the operation of their business and provide public reassurance.
2. What challenges do optical businesses face and how do you think the new Standards can help optical businesses to meet those challenges?
Where would you like me to start? The problems facing all high street businesses, regardless of their specific sector, are well documented. The optics specific challenges include new online channels of delivery with the potential to disrupt historical business models in the future.
I think the benefits of a set of business standards are twofold. The clarity of expectation from the regulator helps owners to understand their obligations and thus plan the safe and effective operation of their business. Secondly, being registered gives a public facing assurance to patients about the standards they can reasonably expect of their experience.
3. As a consultant at The Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS), you step in to help resolve consumer complaints about optical businesses. What advice can you give optical businesses to improve communication with patients and maintain high standards of patient care?
Most issues that come to the OCCS are driven by a breakdown in communication and trust, it is very rarely clinical in nature. My advice would be to create a genuine culture of using complaints as something to be embraced and as a source of learning and improvement. Set yourself the challenge to turn the complainer into an evangelist for your practice.
4. GOC figures show that poor complaint handling is one of the reasons why the GOC receive complaints about business registrants. What advice can you give to optical businesses about managing complaints from patients?
Step forward and own the complaint. Have clear ownership, deal with the issues in person if you can (letters can be notoriously difficult to craft in this area) and make sure you deliver on your commitments. I think as a sector we do generally manage complaints very well. In the context of circa 22 million eye examinations and circa 15 million spectacle dispensings a year we do not see many issues finding their way to the OCCS.
5. Some optical business owners may be unsure of how to apply the standards in a practical way. What advice would you give them?
I think the key is to carefully read the standards to understand them and consider how each area of the standards can be applied to their particular practice. ‘What does good look like?’ is a good mantra. Also, to be really clear about what the standards mean for you as a registrant and as a Director.
6. To ensure ongoing compliance with the Standards, what steps or procedures do you think optical businesses should put in place?
I would suggest periodically revisiting the standards to ensure you are confident that you, and your teams, continue to operate your business in line with the GOC’s expectations. Depending on the size and complexity of your business, a communication cascade to ensure all colleagues understand the standards and their role in delivering the standards consistently would be essential. Given the inevitable turnover of staff over time this will need to be revisited on a regular basis.
Richard Edwards is a member of the GOC Companies Committee and a consultant at the OCCS.