OPT013: Legal Aspects of UK Optometry

This module aims to provide eye care professionals with a comprehensive review of the legal obligations in optometric practice in the UK.

The module content is presented in a format that is commensurate with everyday practice – much of it is based on realistic situations that the practitioner will recognise and empathise with. This should be particularly useful to those engaged in commissioning or enhanced services provision, or to practitioners returning to work after a career break.

This module complements OPT016, OPT018, OPT019 and OPT021. It is also a compulsory module for the Postgraduate Certificate in Eye Care Governance.

Start dateDurationCreditsPre-requisitesModule tutorsModule code
September 201822 contact hours over one academic term10NoneTrevor Warburton

Barbara Ryan

Learning objectives

To acquire knowledge and understanding at an advanced level about:
  • where the law in the United Kingdom comes from
  • the principles of ethics in optometric practice and healthcare generally
  • the legal requirements for registration
  • the legal issues surrounding contracts, appointments and sales
  • the role of the NHS contracts in modern optometric practice
  • the legal background to keeping records and record-keeping
  • your legal responsibilities in and outside of the consulting room
  • negligence and misadventure
  • other general laws that affect you in business (eg Equality Act 2010)
  • rules regarding referral and advice given; the role of delegated tasks
  • legalities surrounding spectacle and contact lens dispensing.
To apply this knowledge to given clinical situations and demonstrate how you would:
  • manage a complaint.
To critically evaluate a clinical situation and suggest appropriate management of a situation with respect to:
  • an accusation of professional negligence
  • a patient unhappy with their spectacles
  • knowledge of illegal sales of contact lenses.

How the module will be delivered

This module is taught via 11 lectures (PowerPoint with audio) delivered using Cardiff University's Virtual Learning Environment, Learning Central, with supporting resources and references supplied. There are also three online sessions of guided case-based learning, allowing students to revise and apply their knowledge in a virtual setting.

How the module will be assessed

Online examination (60%): There is a MCQ test that will assess comprehension and application across the entire syllabus which students take at the end of the lecture series for final assessment.

Written coursework (30%): Students will be presented with two given scenarios that represent typical legal or ethical dilemmas in UK practice. They will research these and then submit their individual evaluation online (each 750-1500 words).  A further scenario will be presented by way of a video of a simulated GOC hearing (video), and students will then submit a written piece detailing what they think will be the likely outcome of the case and why (1500-2000 words).

Online coursework (10%): Students will discuss a typical legal or ethical dilemma in UK practice. They will discuss this in a webinar, and then submit their individual evaluation online (each 1500-2000 words).

Syllabus content

  • The British legal system
  • Registration with the professional bodies and the need for professional indemnity cover
  • The NHS and optometry
  • Legislation in the practice for employers and employees
  • Contracts in optometry
  • Data Protection Act and Confidentiality
  • Record keeping
  • Patient complaint procedures
  • Negligence and misadventure
  • The General Optical Council (GOC)
  • Code of Conduct
  • European legislation in relation to optometry
  • Making referrals
  • Giving advice to patients
  • Regulations surrounding the eye examination and recent changes to the legislation
  • Fitting, care, sale and supply of contact lenses
  • Legal issues around the supply of spectacles.

Skills that will be practised and developed

Academic skills:
  • Reviewing information resources
  • Collate information from a number of resources to improve learning.
Subject-specific skills:
  • The ability to see relevance of legislation to a given case
  • Practice ethically and within the law
  • Improving patient welfare
  • Appropriate referral pathways
  • How to deal with complaints.
Generic skills:
  • Searching for relevant information
  • Time management
  • Working independently
  • Problem solving
  • Dealing with ethical dilemmas
  • Co-operating with fellow professionals.


Postgraduate team

School of Optometry and Vision Sciences