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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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.
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.
The Daily Mail really should know by now that an ophthalmologist is a surgeon (like Bobby Qureshi), regulated by the GMC (if we’re lucky), while the General Optical Council (GOC) regulate optometrists (opticians)!
Which reminds me, I wonder if OE gave John Margetts his job back when his twelve months suspension ended last year?
I’m guessing not, and have reason to believe that he was paid to keep quiet at the GOC Fitness to Practise hearing in 2017, not least because his representative didn’t say a word in his defence about the sales tactics employed by OE, and the pressure on optometrists to sell, sell, sell!
And one day I might be able to tell you about another optometrist who should have gone before a GOC tribunal for sexual assault, as alleged by a patient. But with his brother in a favoured position within a certain corrupt Scottish company, the victim was told it would be dealt with in-house.
So many stories yet to tell, and all of them true - eh Tweedles
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Somewhat belatedly I admit, in October 2014 I complained to the GOC (General Optical Council) about Swati Malkan, the Optimax optometrist who recommended me for lasek surgery in 2011
My submission to the GOC involved many weeks of hard work and lots of research, but in a nutshell I alleged that Ms Malkan failed to fully inform me and recommended me for treatment that was wholly unsuitable.
In fact she told me that I was suitable ONLY for lasek, yet on the day she was contradicted by Dr Wilbert Hoe, who asked me to choose lasek or lasik just minutes before my surgery!
I will never forget my panicked reaction, and sometimes question my sanity as to why I argued against my gut instinct screaming at me to walk away.
Seven years later, knowing so much more than I did then, I know that Dr Hoe was provably negligent by operating on a patient, obviously very stressed and anxious, who he knew had not been fully informed, by him or the optom Swati Malkan.
And I could add to this list of points of negligence simply by quoting from the GMC guidance on good medical practise. But thankfully Dr Wilbert Hoe is now retired and no longer registered with the GMC, so no point in my wasting my time.
The GOC Case Examiners' decision in December 2015 disappointingly determined that there was no realistic prospect of establishing that Ms Malkan’s fitness to practise was impaired, and so she didn’t even get a smacked hand.
I unsuccessfully appealled the decision.
But unfortunately for Swati Malkan, in January 2017 my second Subject Access Request (SAR) sent to Russell Ambrose (Optimax owner) disclosed an incredible amount of information that had been deliberately withheld under my first SAR in 2016.
This disclosure horrifyingly proved that I had been given unsuitable treatment, that Ms Malkan had not fully informed me, and shockingly, that Russell Ambrose unarguably knew this prior to our first meeting - on Friday 13 May 2011 - when he told me that I was, 'a rare case’!
Russell had no inkling of quite how rare I would turn out to be, unwilling to be bought by him or David Moulsdale at any price to stay quiet about this scandalous unregulated industry that repeatedly ruins eyes and lives to feed the greed of corrupt and psychopathic businessmen!
I contacted the GOC in March 2017 and they agreed to look at the new evidence and review the original decision.
Last week the GOC advised me that the Case Examiners had reached their decision and it would be sent to me as soon as the details had been checked. I didn’t hold my breath, too many disappointments over the years.
This afternoon I received their decision, and, as I think you may have guessed, it was great news!
As it’s not yet a matter of public record I won't go into detail, but the Case Examiners agreed that there is a public interest in reviewing the original decision not to refer Swati Malkan to the Fitness To Practise Committee.
They have directed that a full (stage two) review be carried out, and I sincerely hope that this will lead to a Fitness to Practise hearing, as with Optical Express optom John Margetts in August 2017. Not least because the entire MBE/OERML story began with Swati Malkan, and had she not recommended me for lasek then I wouldn’t be talking to you now.
And I urge every damaged patient to complain to the GOC about the optom who recommended you for surgery, and to the GMC about the surgeon, and to send an SAR to the clinic where you were damaged.
In my case at least, SARs can provide a lot of fun, as did the results of one that reached me today, filled with highly enlightening and entertaining information. And to the predicted dismay of a number of people, I will be publishing its content!
Meanwhile, some of you have been unable to post on OERML website forum for two weeks. This is because I hadn’t realised that the site was overdue for urgent technical updates, now being fixed, which is why I am thrusting out my begging bowl asking for contributions toward the costs.
It’s not only the websites that have to be paid for, and I thank the few people who understand this and have generously contributed to the endless work of MBE Foundation and OERML.
As little as £5-10 will be very much appreciated...
John Margetts' GOC registration has been suspended for twelve months!
I went straight from the hearing to BBC Westminster studios (bumped into a couple of faces you’ll recognise) and recorded an interview for Points West this evening - broadcast scheduled @ 6.30pm this evening. (Don’t worry about missing it because I will upload to YouTube later or tomorrow and post link)
It’s been a great week, during which I gathered a lot of information (passed on to lawyers representing my clients) and have sooooo much to tell you!
But not tonight, because I’ll be opening a bottle of champagne to celebrate
After reviewing the evidence and listening to witnesses in person, this afternoon the Fitness To Practise Committee upheld that John Margetts was, '4.b. Dishonest in that you knew that the information you provided to Patient A [BBC journalist] was incorrect’, the only one of the allegations he had denied.
However, the GOC process is more complex than a court hearing, and there were more stages yet to come...
The next was for the Committee to determine whether his fitness to practise was impaired, and, although I believed they could not reach any other conclusion, until I heard them say it I held my breath - not long enough for OE no doubt!
I think this photo - taken after the decision was announced late this afternoon - says it all!
Back tomorrow for both parties to give their submissions before the Committee decide whether or not John Markets will be struck off.
Again, I don’t believe they have any option, be it permanently or for a limited time, but we’ll find that out tomorrow.
The hearing is open to the public, so if you’re interested in coming along (wearing OERML T shirt!) contact me this evening for more info!