Optician Vision Express allowed unqualified staff to fit people's glasses
HIGH street optician Vision Express broke industry rules by letting unqualified staff fit glasses and contact lenses – including at its Grimsby store.
The chain employed seven people as dispensing opticians, a role similar to that of a pharmacist, when they were not properly registered with their professional body, a hearing was told.
An eighth person, Savina Patel carried out eye tests on customers at the Freshney Place store by herself, despite being a student optometrist at the time who should only have been working under the supervision of a fully-qualified optician.
There is no evidence suggesting any customers were harmed, the General Optical Council (GOC) heard.
MAYFAIR ESTATE AGENTS
IF WE CANNOT FIND YOU A TENANT WITHIN ONE MONTH WE WILL FIND YOU ONE FOR FREE, YES FREE, YOU WILL PAY NO FEES.
Terms: TERMS & CONDITIONS APPLY.
Contact: 01472 355 553
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
The allegations came to light after a whistleblower anonymously e-mailed the regulator in July 2010 about somebody who was working at a London branch.
It later uncovered a further seven cases following an internal inquiry – including the Grimsby one – admitting to the GOC that its checks "lacked robustness", and that there had been a "reliance on the probity of individual staff members".
"In each of these cases, there was indeed activity in breach of registration requirements," said David Bradly, for the GOC.
The whistleblower claimed unqualified Mehmood Jagani was working as a dispensing optician at the Brent Cross shopping centre branch, and said he was "allowed to work as a fully-fledged dispensing optician," adding: "he has been allowed to dispense to young children."
The panel heard Mr Jagani claimed he had forgotten to renew his registration as a dispensing optician, but a trawl of official databases revealed he had never been registered.
Another unregistered member of staff was found masquerading as a dispensing optician at the same branch, and others were breaking the rules at stores in Kingston and Croydon, Victoria Street in Westminster, in Brentwood, and Peterborough.
Vision Express later sacked Mr Jagani for gross misconduct, but he insisted he had "always been clear" he was unregistered.
Mr Bradly told the hearing: "This should never have been allowed to happen. It's avoidable, and avoidable by reasonable and proportionate steps.
"Vision Express is a very large organisation, with a large number of outlets.
"This fundamental failure occurred in a number of them, in different parts of the country.
"Registration is there for the protection of the public.
"There must be the necessary qualifications, completion of the necessary training, and maintenance of standards of practice."
The eight employees worked at Vision Express from 2009 to 2010.
Some were registered only as students, while some had been fully registered previously, and others had never held either status.
The hearing continues and is due to conclude today.
Updates will appear on www.thisisgrimsby.co.uk.