Boots Opticians has been fined £30,000 by a General Optical Council fitness to practise committee over a lack of supervision given to a trainee dispensing optician.

Allegations were proven that the company did not take reasonable and proportionate steps to prevent trainee Trevor Burgess dispensing to a 14-year-old boy without proper supervision on two occasions (News 26.06.09).

Boots was cleared of not taking reasonable and proportionate steps to ensure appropriate supervision arrangements were in place for Burgess between September 29 2005, and January 31 2007.

Burgess, who has since qualified, was found guilty of misconduct for providing spectacles to the boy in an Isle of Man practice. Although he was told his fitness to practise was not impaired, he was given a three year 'warning'. The committee found Burgess' supervisor at the time, DO Richard Simmons, guilty of failing to provide adequate supervision, but cleared him of misconduct.

Incorrect prescription details for the boy were entered into Boots' computer by Burgess on October 8, 2005, leading the boy to return to the branch with his mother on December 24, 2005 because of difficulties with his glasses. They were then given a false explanation (either by Burgess or with his connivance and in his presence) which hid the error that had been made. They were told that the power of the spectacle lenses was part of the intended prescription process which would be in two stages with a second prescription thereafter. A second pair of spectacles to the correct prescription was then ordered. No registered optometrist or DO was in the practice that day.

The committee concluded that the word 'dispensed' referred to any steps in the process of ordering, preparation and distribution of items supplied to a prescription. It also clarified that the staffing requirement for the supply of spectacles was that trainees required supervision at 'every step' in the dispensing process when dealing with children under 16. The panel considered the minimum requirement in such situations was that a registered optician should be on the premises and in a position to intervene if required.

Boots Opticians' fitness to carry on business as a corporate body was found by the committee to be impaired. It found that the way in which important professional obligations were the subject of such poor communication and accountability in the Isle of Man branch was 'bound to affect public confidence'.

Panel chair Margaret Hallendorf said: 'To protect the public, the committee concluded that in all the circumstances, and bearing in mind its view of the gravity, the least possible financial sanction it could impose is £30,000.'