What we Offer

FAQs for Practitioners

What are the common optical reasons for complaints?

Communication and consumer’s feeling their concerns have been dismissed or ignored are the ultimate reason for complaint. Challenges with prescriptions, lenses, frames or contact lenses are the trigger for a complaint, but in many situations these issues are addressed by the practitioner within the consultation and fitting process.

Over the next few months we will continue to share our insight on frequent and common causes for complaint and how to handle these.

Common scenarios are:

  • Non tolerance of lenses particularly where the prescription and dispense are provided by different practices;
  • Varifocal lens adaptation

Please keep an eye out for our regular video blogs providing guidance and insight from the OCCS.

What advice would you give me to avoid a complaint?

Communication is key. It is important to try and understand why the consumer is upset and to listen carefully. This way, you will ensure you are meeting their needs and addressing any concerns, rather than what you think are their reasons for complaining.

What advice would you give me to minimise a complaint getting serious?

Acknowledge that the consumer is dissatisfied (that does not mean you are admitting you have made an error!). It is also important that you ask the consumer what you can do to put things right and deal with it in good grace.

Another OCCS top tip – Aim for the same standard of record keeping for your dispensing as you would see fit for an eye exam - particularly if you give advice or a recommendation and the consumer has any underlying worries or selects an option that may be suboptimal.

Can I tell a consumer that there is more risk of things going wrong if they take their prescription away or order contact lenses from the internet?

The Opticians Act allows the consumer to take their prescription to another practice for dispensing and you must comply with your duties under the act and your code of conduct by providing the prescription. You can however refer to the College of Optometry advice which explains that by doing so, there is a greater risk of complications.

What areas does the OCCS not get involved in?

The OCCS are happy to take enquiries from consumers or practitioners and to discuss whether we can assist. There are some areas where we would need to signpost to another organisation or elsewhere:

  • We cannot deal with complaints outside the UK.
  • If the complaint does not involve a GOC registrant (individual or business) we may have limited remit.
  • Where the consumer complaint involves a medical (ophthalmological) issue where the responsibility for that aspect of the treatment is provided by a doctor regulated by the General Medical Council (e.g LASIK).
  • Where the consumer is seeking compensation for any injury caused or financial loss incurred. In this situation, we cannot assist and the consumer would need to take independent legal advice.
  • Where the complaint involves solely NHS treatment.

 

Why should I consider using OCCS?

The OCCS are here to help mediate consumer complaints in situations where it has not been possible for the complaint or concerns to be resolved in the practice. The OCCS are trained complaints resolvers and we will diffuse the tension, and enable communication to get back on track. 

By listening to the consumer, we can then help to narrow and focus the concerns and look at explain and address these. By helping you to understand the other’s point of view, we can then work with you to help find a solution. 

This can include providing an explanation (why the action taken is common or accepted practicse within optics), finding a compromise where appropriate (such as a replacement product) or helping to prevent a complaint escalating unnecessarily. 

Feedback from both consumers and practitioners describes the OCCS as non-judgmental and great listeners. Contacting the OCCS to discuss a complaint or situation or providing our details to the Consumer when you feel you have completed the complaints process within your practice, may help to move the complaint forward and find a resolution. 

How will you assure me and my client about respecting the confidentiality of my records/details?

We ask all consumers to provide a signed form of authority allowing the practice to release copies of a consumer’s records to the OCCS, and to allow the OCCS to use those records to resolve the complaint.

The records are then stored securely within the OCCS office and paper copies will be destroyed once the complaint is concluded and archived. 

How can you help me?

We are happy to receive enquiries from consumers and practitioners. 

We regularly take enquiries from practitioners looking for practical guidance on how to respond to a complaint or to minimise the chance of a consumer’s concerns or worries developing into a complaint. We are available on the telephone, email or letter. We also regularly attend industry events where we are happy to discuss a situation with you in person. 

A consumer will need to be willing to engage in the OCCS mediation process for us to become actively involved, and if you are keen for us to become involved, we would recommend you provide the consumer with our details or our literature. 

We may refer you to your professional body or indemnity insurer if you need legal advice. 

What assurances do I have that you won’t refer me to GOC?

Our role is to mediate consumer complaints – these are complaints which relate to the quality of the goods or service provided by the practice. This can mean the quality of the frames or lenses supplied or the quality of the test and, or dispensing process, and customer service issues generally. 

In most circumstances, these issues are not concerns regarding a practitioner’s fitness to practise. If a complaint relates to a consumer issue, then it should be mediated by the OCCS and it is not appropriate for a GOC investigation. 

A consumer complaint will not be resolved by the involvement of the GOC, and therefore the consumer may be best served by finding a practical resolution to the complaint. 

The GOC and the OCCS are preparing guidance to explain how they will interact where it is appropriate that both are involved. 

We cannot however deal with issues which may be breaches of the code of conduct, illegal practice or other fitness to practise issues. The safety of patients must however be protected. If the circumstances do give cause for concern (i.e are such that another GOC registrant would consider it appropriate for the GOC to be made aware), then the OCCS will a) answer the consumer’s questions regarding the role of the OCCS and the regulatory role of the GOC and b) inform the consumer that the GOC should be made aware. 

In very serious circumstances, public and patient protection would dictate that we would pass details to the GOC directly. 

Who do you turn to for clinical professional advice?

The OCCS have a panel of independent clinical advisors who are optometrists and dispensing opticians who can provide clinical and professional advice when needed. Most issues involve consumer rights or contractual relationships, however it is sometimes necessary to obtain a clinical input. 

Whose side are you on?

The OCCS are an independent service. We are funded from the GOC registration fee. 
We do not take sides and as mediators, our job is to help move the complaint forward so that a resolution can be found. We will listen and do not judge. 

Is there anything OCCS can do for me if I do not have a consumer complaint to be mediated?

Even if do not need our help to mediate a particular complaint, the OCCS can help you in our everyday practice. We produce regular feedback video podcasts, e-newsletters or issue helpful guidance throughout the year. We look to provide practitioners with an overview and key insights into current trends in patients concerns and top tips in resolution. 

I work for a multiple their customer service team are there to help me. Why should I consider the OCCS?

The OCCS receive complaints at different stages in the process. Some consumers or practitioners contact us very early in the complaint for advice and guidance. We can then assist, helping the complaint communication to be constructive and focusing on the key issues. 

If you work for a multiple or are part of a franchise or joint venture partnership, you may have a customer service team who can assist you at that stage. We are here if you need us and would like to obtain our input. 

We do ask consumers to raise their complaint with the practice before we get involved to mediate. If the complaint cannot be resolved by the customer service team, then it can be referred to us at that stage and we are then able to liaise with you, the customer service team and the consumer. 

Can I call for confidential advice?

Yes. We are happy to receive calls or emails from practitioners who would like to discuss a particular complain or if you would like advice on complaint mediation or avoidance. 

We do not offer professional advice, but your membership organisations will be able to help with this.

How can I be expected to resolve customer complaints when some people are just unreasonable?

Handling consumer or patient complaints is challenging. The relationship between patient and ‘optician’ is based on trust particularly as optometry and dispensing is as much art as science. When a complaint is made, that relationship comes under strain and can break down. This is where an independent mediator can help. By listening to the consumer, we can then help to narrow and focus the concerns and look at explain and address these. By helping you to understand the other’s point of view, we can then work with you to help find a solution. 

This can include providing an explanation (why the action taken is common or accepted practice within optics), finding a compromise where appropriate (such as a replacement product) or looking at other practical ways to resolve the complaint. 

Mediation will not always succeed, and there are many reasons why a resolution cannot be found. By engaging in the OCCS process, you are giving the complaint the best possible opportunity to be resolved. You are also doing what you can to try and prevent it escalating unnecessarily. 

If you have any questions regarding the mediation service provided by the OCCS or would like to discuss a particular complaint or concern, then please get in touch.

Do I need a solicitor to get legal advice?

It is not necessary to get legal advice and you do not need to appoint a solicitor. We will ensure all information is provided in plain English and are here to answer any questions or provide further explanation. As mediators, we cannot give you specific legal advice but we can help you to understand the relevant legal rights and obligations. If we think it is necessary or advisable for you to obtain independent legal advice, or in the case of an optical practice, to refer the matter to your insurers, then we will tell you. You are of course entitled to seek independent legal advice if you wish to do so. We will always communicate directly with you or your personal representative, if you have appointed one as it is not necessary or cost effective for you if we communicate with solicitors. 

Since 1 April 2014, the OCCS has assisted over 4,500 consumers and practices to resolve their consumer complaints. Jennie Jones, head of the OCCS, explains: ‘We are delighted that the OCCS  is seen as an effective and useful service, providing independent and impartial mediation and advice. The team does an amazing job ensuring that both the consumer and the practice feel heard, understood, and importantly, helped to find a very practical resolution to the complaint. Mediation is not about judgment or deciding who is right. It is about understanding each other’s perspective to be able to find an answer both can accept. We will soon be reporting on our 4th year in action, and look forward to sharing even more insight and useful information for all involved in optics.'