HC Deb 02 May 1984 vol 59 cc368-70

'(1) The following section shall be inserted after section 20 of the Opticians Act 1958

"Restrictions on fitting of contact lenses.

20A.—(l) Subject to the following provisions of this section, a person who is not a registered medical practitioner or registered optician shall not fit contact lenses.

(2) The foregoing subsection shall not apply to the fitting of contact lenses by a person recognised by a medical authority as a medical student, if carried out as part of a course of instruction approved by that authority for medical students or as part of an examination so approved.

(3) The General Optical Council may by rules exempt from subsection (1) of this section the fitting of contact lenses by persons training as opticians, or any prescribed class thereof, in such cases and subject to compliance with such conditions as may be prescribed by the rules.

(4) Rules under the last foregoing subsection shall not come into force until approved by order of the Privy Council, and the power to make any such order shall be exercisable by statutory instrument.

(5) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) of this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of an amount not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale, as defined in section 75 of the Criminal Justice Act 1982.".

(2) The following subsections shall be inserted after section 25(3) of that Act—

"(3A) The General Optical Council may make rules specifying requirements which registered opticians, enrolled bodies corporate or employees of registered opticians or enrolled bodies corporate must meet if they are to prescribe, fit or supply contact lenses.

(3B) The power conferred by subsection (3A) above is a power—

  1. (a) in relation to registered opticians or employees of registered opticians or of enrolled bodies corporate, to specify qualifications which they must have, and
  2. (b) in relation to enrolled bodies corporate, to specify conditions which they must satisfy.".' —[Mr. Kenneth Clarke.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It will be convenient to take at the same time Government amendments Nos. 62 and 110.

Mr. Clarke

We come to that part of the law which governs opticians and optical services. I shall not attempt again to introduce a new clause by saying that it cannot have a controversial point; I shall forbear to reply to whatever points the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) contrives to raise on this occasion. However, I believe that the change that we are here making will meet with universal agreement.

As the House will know—no doubt we shall debate this at greater length later in our proceedings — the Government have insisted throughout that the fitting of contact lenses should be carried out only by qualified opticians. As with all our policy, we have sought to reserve to qualified people those things that must be reserved to them so as to safeguard the health of the public, and there has been no controversy over our proposal to do that.

Discussion of this matter has highlighted the fact that the law on the fitting of contact lenses is not satisfactory in every way. The present law provides that they must be sold by, or under the supervision of, a doctor or registered optician, but no requirement is at present placed by the law on who does the prescribing or fitting. We do not have evidence of great problems, but there is no doubt that it is desirable, for the safety and well-being of the patient, to have the fitting done by somebody properly qualified and to be sure that the qualified person does not merely supervise somebody else.

Therefore, with the full support of the General Optical Council, we propose this new clause, which will restrict the fitting of contact lenses to registered opticians or registered medical practitioners, and we make exceptions only for bona fide medical students and under rules to be made by the GOC in relation to optical students. We also give the GOC power to specify the qualifications that registered opticians must have to prescribe, fit or supply contact lenses, or the conditions which enrolled bodies must specify.

Not every qualified person has the training and experience to deal with the more difficult contact lenses. The General Optical Council may want to take advantage of an explicit power to require specific qualifications for those engaged in prescribing, fitting or supplying this type of lens. The new clause is an added protection for the patient and has the general approval of the opticians' profession and all who follow these matters.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

4.45 pm
Forward to