General Optical Council

There wasn’t always a regulatory body for dispensing optics and optometry professions. The Opticians Act in 1958 came with the General Optical Council from Parliament after the establishment of the NHS in 1948 when the Secretary of State for Scotland and Health Minister started a committee with the purpose of determining whether there was a need for an organisation to regulate this area of healthcare.

This Lord Crook-led Committee considered a variety of evidence from medical and optical bodies, trade unions and training institutions and recommended:

  • Legislation was important for establishing a regulatory body that would be called the General Optical Council
  • This Council would keep and manage registers of dispensing opticians and optometrists
  • The GOC should oversee inspection of examination boards and training institutions that give qualifying individuals qualifications
  • Unregistered individuals should not be allowed to use protected titles, like dispensing opticians and optometrists
  • The organisation should take disciplinary action against registered professionals and maintain and encourage certain ethical standards

It took six years, but these recommendations brought the establishment of the Opticians Act that outlines the duties and powers of the General Optical Council. Some amendments were made in 2005, including registration for student dispensing opticians and optometrists, and mandatory continuous training and education for registrants.

Mission and Values of the GOC

Their Mission

The protection and promotion of the general public’s health and safety

Their Values

The GOC has four values that underpin all they do. These values are:


It builds trust by:

  • Gaining respect through their high standards, integrity and credibility
  • Communicating honestly, listening openly and acting responsively
  • Behaving fairly and consistently to everyone
  • Fostering a productive and positive culture


It makes a difference because they are:

  • Always pursuing goals that are clearly defined and measuring its results
  • Always agile, innovative and progressive in the ways they work
  • Always delivering and achieving more through collaboration
  • Always looking to improve and are a learning organisation


The GOC is able to therefore inspire confidence by:

  • Making decisions that are based on evidence, well-reasoned and clear
  • Being to open to scrutinization and taking account of their actions
  • Applying their resources in a proportionate and targeted way

How They Work

There are 12 members of the Council and they normally meet four times throughout the year in a public place. The members of the Council also attend various strategic seminars during the months in-between, to discuss the important areas of their work. Within the Council there are eight committees, five statutory committees that are defined in the Act and the associated rules, and three non-statutory that were put in place for good governance practice.

The five statutory committees are:

  • Standards Committee
  • Registration Committee
  • Investigation Committee
  • Education Committee
  • Companies Committee

While the three non-statutory committees are:

  • Nominations Committee
  • Remuneration Committee
  • Audit and Risk Committee

Its Work

The GOC, as noted earlier, is the regulator of all optical professions throughout the UK and currently registers over 30,000 optical businesses, student opticians, dispensing opticians and optometrists. They are given their duties and powers by the aforementioned Act from Parliament and their main four functions are:

  • Setting optical conduct, performance, training and education standards
  • Approval of qualifications that lead to successful registration of members
  • Maintaining the register of those individuals that are fully qualified and fit to either carry on business, train or practise as dispensing opticians and optometrists
  • Carrying out investigations and acting on them when necessary when the fitness to practise, carry on business or train is impaired.
  • They are not a part of the Government or the Department of Health or a professional body, but are an independent regulatory agency.


In order to practise as dispensing opticians and optometrists, individuals must be registered with the GOC, or they are considered to be acting illegally and could be prosecuted.

All student dispensing opticians and optometrists should also be registered with them. Students carrying out any duties that are restricted to registered members, without being registered, could be prosecuted.

Any corporations’ bodies using titles that are protected should also be registered with the Council


The General Optical Council are funded completely from registrants’ fees.

The Council are allowed to comment on:

  • Related healthcare issues and the regulation of optical business, student opticians, dispensing opticians and optometrists.
  • Regulation of contact lenses and spectacles supply and sale

The Council can provide:

  • A suitable spokesperson that will provide expert comments on important optical issues, such as UV damage to eyesight and how nutrition relates to the eyes.
  • Various statistics regarding the register, such as the number of optometrists and students there are.