C. If someone speaks up about their concerns to you

78. If a worker (see definition under part 1, section D) speaks up to you, you have a responsibility to take their concerns seriously. This does not mean that all concerns will have a basis in fact or require extensive investigation, but you should make sure that you do not dismiss any concerns out of hand. You should also make sure you are able to identify patient/public safety issues as such, even if you are made aware of them informally or outside of a ‘speaking up’ process.

79. If, after consideration, the worker’s concerns have a basis in fact and you are able to put matters right, you must do so. If they fall outside of your ability to put right, then you must escalate them to someone who can with immediate effect as per your responsibilities under the Standards for Optical Businesses, noting that the most appropriate person/organisation to put matters right may be external to your organisation (see ‘prescribed persons’ at part 1, section C2).

80. If there are patient safety concerns that cannot be put right by you, or by another person/organisation, sufficiently quickly to avoid risk of patient/public harm, then you should be prepared to manage the risk by ceasing trading in the affected area (if appropriate) as per your responsibilities under the Standards for Optical Businesses. An example of when it may be appropriate to do this is if a branch premises are in disrepair and need to be closed for repairs to be undertaken safely.

81. The same principles apply to you as to your staff when speaking up, and if a referral to the GOC is warranted as a result of concerns raised, then you should not hesitate to make such a referral. You can contact the GOC’s Speaking Up contact on speakingup@optical.org and 020 7307 3466.

82. If it is appropriate to do so, consider keeping the worker updated as to your intended actions, though in some circumstances (such as if the actions relate to confidential employment matters) you may not be able to. Managing workers’ expectations in relation to updates is useful to maintain trust and confidence in your organisational processes.

83. On occasion, a worker’s concerns may relate to a personal grievance or other dispute rather than concerns about patient/public safety or propriety, such as when they observe something that appears seriously wrong or not in accordance with accepted standards. In such circumstances, it is appropriate to explain this to the worker and consider the concerns under the appropriate organisational policy (for example, a grievance policy).

84. You should ensure that a worker who has spoken up, or is considering speaking up, is not victimised or discriminated against as a result. As well as being unlawful, this would amount to a breach of GOC standards that we would take very seriously.