Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board

Discipline cases

The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (Tribunal) website contains summaries of all disciplinary cases heard by the Tribunal.

Four cases in respect of optometrists and one case in respect of a dispensing optician have been heard by the Tribunal. These cases are summarised below.

 

Summary of HPDT decision Opt10/168P: Timothy William White

At a hearing of the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal on Wednesday 30 March 2011, Mr White faced a charge of practising the profession of optometry when he did not hold a current practising certificate.  The charge was laid by a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) appointed by the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board.

Mr White accepted the charge and following consideration of the evidence before it, the Tribunal found the charge upheld and that it warranted disciplinary action.

Having taken into account the particular circumstances of the case, the Tribunal ordered that Mr White pay a fine of $1,250, and make a contribution to the costs of and incidental to the hearing of $1,000, and $2,500 towards the costs and disbursements of the PCC.  The Tribunal also ordered that Mr White be censured, and reiterated that all optometrists (and indeed all health practitioners) have a significant professional responsibility to apply and obtain an APC in order to practise.

The Tribunal also recommended that the Board consider the possibility of conducting a competence review of Mr White and ordered a summary of its decision be published on the Board's website and newsletter.

The full decision of the Tribunal can be viewed here

Summary of HPDT decision Opt11/177P - Mr Forum Patel

On 21 June 2011 the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal considered three charges laid by a Professional Conduct Committee appointed by the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board against Mr Forum Patel.

The first two charges related to Mr Patel practising as an optometrist without holding a current practising certificate and the third charge related to Mr Patel making an incorrect and careless declaration on an application for an annual practising certificate (APC).

Mr Patel did not dispute the first two charges and the Tribunal found that the charges were established and warranted a finding under section 100(1)(d) of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003.

Mr Patel accepted the established facts of the third charge but disputed that they were sufficiently serious to warrant disciplinary sanction.  The Tribunal, however, considered that Mr Patel had a responsibility to ensure the information given was correct considering the importance of the document and the considerable lengths the Board had gone in reminding practitioners including Mr Patel, of the obligation to maintain a current APC.  The Tribunal found the charge established as one of professional misconduct, bringing discredit to the profession.

Mr Patel was censured and ordered to pay a fine of $6,250, and an award of costs totalling $8,000.  The Tribunal also directed that a copy of the decision or summary of it be published on the Tribunal's website and on the website of the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board.

The full decision of the Tribunal can be viewed here.

Summary of HPDT decision Opt12/217P – Ms Andrea Buckingham

On 20 and 21 November 2012, the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal considered a charge of professional misconduct laid by a Professional Conduct Committee appointed by the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board against Ms Andrea Buckingham.

In summary, the charge alleged that in the period before 20 May 2011, when Eyezone Limited (a company which Ms Buckingham is alleged at all material times to have been the sole director and shareholder) was placed into liquidation, until the date when the charge was laid – 5 July 2012, Ms Buckingham failed to make appropriate arrangements to ensure the continuity of Eyezone’s patients’ optometric care and/or ensure that the patients’ care would not be compromised after her business went into liquidation.

Ms Buckingham disputed the charge on the basis that she did not have the means to make records available to patients at the time of liquidation due to cost, that she believed she was no longer registered with the Board and therefore had no obligation to Eyezone patients, and that the records were not necessary for continuity of care.

The Tribunal found the charge established and made the following orders:

  • That Ms Buckingham’s registration is cancelled, effective from 21 February 2013.
  • That Ms Buckingham is censured. The Tribunal expressed its strong disapproval of the conduct it had been required to review.
  • That Ms Buckingham contribute $17,500.00 exclusive of GST which is not payable, in respect of the costs of the PCC.
  • That Ms Buckingham contribute $9,800.00 exclusive of GST which is not payable, in respect of the costs of the Tribunal.
  • That a copy of the decision, and a summary of it, be placed on the Tribunal and Board websites, and in the Board’s newsletter.

The full decision of the Tribunal can be viewed by clicking here.

Summary of HPDT decision Opt12/220P – Mr Desmond White

On 25 March 2013, the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal considered a charge of professional misconduct laid by a Professional Conduct Committee appointed by the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board against optometrist, Desmond White.

In summary, the charge alleged that on or about 16 December 2010 and/or in the period between 16 December 2010 and 7 February 2011, Mr White failed to refer his patient in a timely manner to an ophthalmologist for the assessment and/or treatment of an abnormality (subsequently found to be a retinal detachment) which he had identified in the Patient’s right eye. The optometrist did not refer the Patient to an ophthalmologist until 7 February 2011.

The Patient was diagnosed with a right retinal detachment by an ophthalmologist on 16 February 2011 and referral for surgery was arranged for the following week.  The Patient underwent a number of subsequent surgeries and on 3 December had his right eye removed and replaced with an artificial eye. 

Mr White admitted his failure to refer the patient in a timely manner and that he did not refer the patient until 7 February 2011.

The Tribunal was satisfied that Mr White was guilty of professional misconduct as it considered the photographs taken during initial consultations with Mr White clearly showed a retinal detachment.  The Tribunal considered that the failure to make a diagnosis of retinal detachment and then not to refer that urgently for an ophthalmologist’s opinion were significant departures from the standards to be expected of a reasonably competent optometrist.  The failures illustrated a lack of competence and the delay in referral was serious and detrimental and well below the expected standard.  It could not be dismissed as an administrative error.

The Tribunal recognised that Mr White was not currently practising as an optometrist but considered a 6 month suspension from practice to be appropriate given the seriousness of the conduct and to recognise that Mr White should be rehabilitated. 

Conditions were also imposed on resumption of practice that Mr White:

  • Practise under supervision for a period of 18 months by an Optometrist and Dispensing Opticians’ Board appointed supervisor;
  • Satisfy the Board that he can demonstrate competence in fundamental eye assessments, examinations and diagnostics;
  • Not practise as a sole practitioner for a period of three years.

Mr White was ordered to pay $10,000 towards the costs of the PCC investigation and Tribunal hearing.  The Tribunal also lifted the interim order for name suppression and directed that the decision and a summary of the decision be published on the Tribunal’s website and a notice be published in the Board’s newsletter and the New Zealand Optics monthly magazine.

The full decision of the Tribunal can be viewed by clicking here.

Summary of HPDT decision DOpt16/360P: Miss Sarah Lucke

On 8 September 2016 the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal considered a charge laid by a Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) appointed by the Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board of New Zealand against Ms Sarah Elizabeth Lucke, registered dispensing optician of Hastings (the Dispensing Optician). 

The charge alleged a breach of section 100(1)(d) of the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 in that during the period of 17 November to 25 February 2016 while working for Specsavers Optometrists Hastings, the Dispensing Optician practised her profession of optical dispensing while not holding a current practising certificate (APC).

The Dispensing Optician accepted the charge and took full responsibility for the decision not to apply for a current APC.  The hearing proceeded on the basis of an Agreed Summary of Facts.

The Tribunal found the charge upheld.  However, it noted that following the Dispensing Optician’s return to work in November 2015 after Maternity Leave, there appears to have been a measure of influence by the employer in the course taken and the employer had the financial interest in the decision made in not having to make any payment of a practising fee until the commencement of the coming practice year some 4 months later. 

The Tribunal also found that although on return to work the Dispensing Optician was referred to as an Optical Assistant and undertook some work that may not have been strictly within the Scope of Practice for Optical Dispensing, she was working in that capacity doing work, including work within that Scope.

The Tribunal ordered that the Dispensing Optician be censured and pay a fine of $500, together with a payment of $1,500 as a contribution towards the costs of the hearing.

The Tribunal directed publication of its decision and a summary thereof.

The full decision of the Tribunal can be viewed by clicking here.

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Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians Board

Level 5, 22 Willeston Street,
Wellington 6011
PO Box 9644, Wellington 6141
Tel: +64 4 474 0705, Fax +64 4 474 0709

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