AN OPTOMETRIST based in Helensburgh has been removed from the profession’s register after a watchdog found “serious, persistent and multiple examples of poor practice”.

Malcolm Craig has been registered with the General Optical Council (GOC) - the regulator for the optical professions in the UK – since 1976.

However, a report of a hearing held in January by a GOC ‘fitness to practise committee’ revealed misconduct by Mr Craig dating back to 2014.

Mr Craig was found to have breached standards set out in the professional code, including failure to make patient care his first concern, failing to keep adequate patients’ records and failing to ensure his conduct did not damage public confidence in himself or his profession.

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Mr Craig’s practice was randomly selected for a visit by the practitioner services team of NHS Highland in November 2014.

After concerns were identified by the inspection team, a second targeted visit was carried out at his now-closed premises in West Clyde Street in June 2015.

Twenty-two patient records were subsequently investigated, showing numerous failures, and after which it was concluded that “the standard of care fell far below the standard expected of a reasonably competent optometrist”.

The full determination of the hearing, made available on the GOC’s website, says: “The committee considered that the registrant [Mr Craig] has, in the past, put patients at unwarranted risk of harm.

“By failing to carry out and/or record basic aspects of eye examinations, the registrant has exposed patients to the risk that abnormalities are not identified, that baseline data is not recorded so as to enable the proper assessment of potentially progressive conditions, and that opportunities for early treatment, where appropriate, are missed.”

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The report continues: “His persistent and basic clinical failings would adversely affect public confidence in the profession.

“The committee noted the comments made by the registrant’s solicitors…to the effect that they understood him to have ‘enjoyed a fine local reputation amongst his patients’.

“This is unsupported by any testimonials and, as Mr Micklewright [the GOC presenting officer] pointed out, patients are not always the best judges of the quality of treatment they receive.

“The committee further concluded that the registrant has breached a fundamental tenet of his profession, in that he has failed to ensure that he operates in an environment where patient wellbeing is paramount.

“This is evidenced by the repeated and widespread failings in the registrant’s practice.

“Therefore, the committee finds that the registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.”

Mr Craig is believed to have retired from the profession, however, in reference to a previous case, the committee said “the fact that…[he] was not intending to resume practice could be of little or no consequence” to the outcome.

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Mr Craig did not attend the GOC hearing.

He was represented by solicitors, who said: “Mr Craig does not wish to obstruct the proceedings but he does not wish to participate either.

“The major reason for his non-participation is the considerable [redacted] by him as a result of the very fact that he was subject to these proceedings, and the very unfortunate circumstances in which his business and professional career came to an end.”

The report explains that Mr Craig “accepted” the allegations and that he was not “challenging any of the documents in the bundle”, although “he did not necessarily accept the entire accuracy or validity of the contents of some of the documentation”.

Mr Craig’s solicitors stated on his behalf: “The failures were not deliberate or wilful.

“They were more through inadvertence and a failure to keep up with an increase in the professional requirements being made of opticians.”

The committee determined “an immediate order of suspension was required for public protection and public interest purposes”.

Mr Craig has until February 12 to appeal the sanction.