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|05 Nov 2021 18:48 #20|
When Optical Express successfully legalled their way out of their General Optical Council (GOC) Fitness to Practise hearing in 2020, I sent a Freedom of Information request to the GOC.
9 November 2020: 'Please provide all information that was submitted and considered to persuade the case examiners to close this case without a hearing. Please also provide a copy of the case examiners decision.'
2 February 2021, GOC to me: 'Apologies for the delay in responding to your request, which was due to the GOC having to consider the public interest in releasing the information to you.
Following our review and consultation with our legal team and the ICO, I can confirm that the information which you have requested is being withheld under s.42 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which relates to information which is under Legal Professional Privilege. This is because the information which you have requested is communications made for the purpose of providing and obtaining legal advice about contemplated litigation. This ensures frankness between lawyer and client which goes to serve the wider administration of justice.’
3 February 2021, me to GOC: "The absolute lack of transparency in this matter is not only astounding, but an insult to those patients who brought their concerns to you, leading to the GOC Case Examiners decision to refer the business registrant to a Fitness to Practise hearing.
If 'contemplated litigation’ was mentioned by Optical Express’ legal team, it was a bluff, their oft employed modus operandi when trying to silence the truth, because I can introduce countless numbers of people able to provide you with evidence that echoes every allegation made by the complainants.
With the FtP hearing closed, ‘the wider administration of justice’ has been badly served, and can only be damaging to the public.
Please therefore accept this email as my complaint to the GOC, and request for the Information Governance Team to review their decision - as a matter of public interest.”
March 2021, I received the GOC decision to the review: ’I am satisfied that our previous response to your Freedom of Information Request is correct… blah blah…’, but if I wasn’t happy with the decision then I could escalate my complaint to stage three - which I did on 19 August (somewhat belatedly, due to my heavy workload).
22 September 2021, GOC decision: ‘I have reviewed the response sent to you in February 2021, following your Freedom of Information Request, and subsequent responses to your complaints at stages one and two in line with our three-stage process for managing complaints. Having reviews this communication I am happy that our initial response to your Freedom of Information request is correct, following advice sought from our legal team and the Information Commissioner’s Office at that time.’
The letter goes on to tell me that I have exhausted my appeal, but if I still disagree with their response then I should contact the Professional Standards Authority.
Of course I strongly disagree, but I also know when to stop flogging a dead horse, and with more than one way to skin a cat, I can happily assure you there is better to come!
NB: The video is an excerpt from Dark Waters, featuring Mark Ruffalo, and based on a true story, should you watch the movie (currently on Netflix), you’ll soon draw parallels with my work over the past ten years
|11 Nov 2020 13:56 #19|
A cautionary tale for all optometrists who’ve sold their souls to Optical Express and discarded their duty of care in return for shiny prizes and fat bonuses
There is no record anywhere on the internet of his having ever worked at Optical Express, but when I read the allegations against Nathan Smith a few months ago, it was a safe bet that this related to OE, and I booked my ‘ticket' for the GOC FtP hearing on Monday 9 November.
Not as much fun as the cancelled Optical Express FtP hearing would have been next week, and considerably shorter, just over one hour in total, because it was an ‘Agreed Panel Disposal’ (APD), which simply explained means that, prior to the hearing, a provisional agreement was reached between the GOC and registrant Nathan Smith who had admitted the allegations.
His fitness to practise was found to be impaired by reason of misconduct, and it was agreed that an appropriate sanction would be a three month Order of Suspension.
The determination below, and (though I don't understand the reasoning for this) read ‘Optical Express’ where you see '[REDACTED]'.
However, not included in this document are some of the more pertinent points mentioned by Sam Thomas, counsel for Nathan Smith.
Referring to the five points 'in mitigation action of the APD report', Sam Thomas said he would ’put a little bit of of meat on those bones’, because that was 'really the focus' of what had been agreed within the report.
Nathan Smith had made full admission of his actions to his employer (OE) in 2013, and Sam claimed it was fair to say that there was 'a corporate culture’ within the company, drawing the Committee’s attention to documentation that referred to ‘a bonus scheme’, which he read out.
‘"There is a reward, and recognises the contribution that you will make. If you dispense over ELEVEN tests you will receive £5 per dispense over this amount: if you reach your daily sales target you will receive £50 per day.”*
Also the job description for this particular role highlights that "there must be a commercial focus, and you will have good ethos toward commercial aspects of the job.”
Now I don’t want to go any further than to highlight that information, because of course that’s no excuse [for Smith's behaviour], but there a number of observers here today from OE which perhaps illustrates the keenness of that company to ensure that there is a focus towards commercial aspects.’
He went on to say that whilst Smith had been with Optical Express since 5 November 2007, there were no concerns about his behaviour until 2013. He resigned on 12 January 2013 when Patient A complained to OE.
And knowing as much as I do about OE’s modus operandi, I have no doubt that they would have ignored his misconduct if Patient A had not complained.
And it was noted by the Committee chair, Anne Johnstone, that Optical Express did not advise the GOC of Smith’s misconduct.
Of course not, because then they’d have to report ALL their optoms, not least for lying to customers - especially the Hannan family (incl Tweedledum's wife Noelle & brother Derrick) - and OE’s infrastructure would collapse!
As OE optoms shamefully count their ill gotten gains on pay day, they should keep in mind that the GOC Committee did consider Erasure from the register for Nathan Smith, because - as I published on 6 November - the Council is going to be flooded with complaints, and every OE optom is at risk!
It should be noted that Nathan Smith was before the GOC FtP Committee in 2018, facing similar allegations of misconduct (unrelated to refractive eye surgery) whilst working at Asda in 2015.
Smith made no admissions to the allegations, and the Committee found the facts 'not proved in their entirety’, declaring his fitness to practise not impaired.**
*I have previously published many OE internal documents evidencing bonus payments, targets, and incentives for sales, paid to optoms and store staff. Yet I have in my possession (on its way to the GOC) a very recent recording of a damaged patient asking an optom if they receive bonuses for sales, and the optom said 'NO'!
**Google 'Nathan Smith GOC’ for links.
NB: I thought long and hard about whether it was fair to publish this fact, and decided it was not only in the public interest to do so, but importantly as a warning to OE optoms that I do not take prisoners, because they really are the infrastructure of OE's business model, and without their collusion many thousands of people would not continue to have their eyes and lives ruined!
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|06 Nov 2020 16:25 #18|
I was given this very disappointing news yesterday, so personally had time to digest it overnight
Optical Express' legal team (one of many) has been fighting with the GOC for more than a year to get their Fitness to Practise hearing dismissed, because the negative publicity would have been catastrophic, regardless of the outcome!
And they eventually succeeded, with the GOC case examiners finally deciding there was no realistic prospect of a finding of impaired fitness to practice.
After further discussion today, I am making a freedom of information (FOI) request to the GOC, in the hope of getting more information about what persuaded the case examiners to make this tragic decision.
I have always been vociferous with my criticism of the General Medical Council (GMC), who time and time again refuse to take ophthalmic surgeons to FtP hearings, no matter how badly and regularly they've damaged patients (incl David Teenan & Dimitris Kazakos), but I have always found the GOC more receptive to complaints, and, as they regulate the optoms - the heart of OE's business model - they really do have the power to bring down this corrupt company!
I therefore advised the GOC yesterday to expect many more complaints than they've been getting in recent months, as I will strongly encourage all MBEF clients damaged by Optical Express to complain whenever there are ANY grounds to do so - and there usually are.
Links 'starred' in GOC email:
|30 Sep 2020 20:14 #17|
I am pleased to announce that the General Optical Council today relisted the previously adjourned Optical Express Fitness to Practise hearing: 16 to 18 November, resuming 23 to 27 November.
I have a front row seat, as do other MBEF members and journalists (sold out faster than Glastonbury!), and it promises to be more entertaining than anything Netflix
|25 Aug 2020 22:04 #16|
The remote hearing scheduled to start next week, with a precious ‘ticket' to attend, I was looking forward to eight days entertainment, and of course guaranteed press cover
Until the GOC notified me yesterday that the hearing has disappointingly been adjourned!
A private Procedural Hearing was held yesterday morning, with representatives from both parties, when the GOC Fitness to Practise Committee made the decision to allow Optical Express an adjournment.
The reason for the adjournment is not publicly available (and I promise I have no idea what it was) but I do accept that it was a valid one.
Dependent on all witnesses being available, the GOC intend to reschedule the hearing later this year.
And because this is a remote hearing, no-one need take time off work, arrange childcare, or travel to London, so I hope it won’t be too difficult.
But - should it have to be be put back to 2021, it may be that GOC FtP hearings will be held in situ by then, or that larger premises will have been found to enable social distancing. In which case media cover will also be possible.
I will of course update you when I have more information.
|22 Jun 2020 17:54 #15|
This post really deserves its own thread
It gives me great pleasure to announce that the General Optical Council have referred business registrant Optical Express to a Fitness to Practise hearing!
I knew in 2019 but was sworn to secrecy - and you cannot imagine how difficult it's been for me to stay quiet until today!
Hopefully GOC hearings will be conducted in person by September, because it won't be as satisfying watching via video link!