Threats and opportunities in the profession

A PESTLE analysis of the threats and opportunities in the profession

Our Council are meeting on 3 March 2016 to discuss the threats, opportunities and challenges faced by the future of optics.


Government is anti-regulation of businesses and pro-competition. It may be open to arguments for legislation that makes optical products more easily accessible or cheaper and that removes restrictions on who may prescribe or supply

There will be amendment to the regulation of health professions within a couple of years. It is not clear what form this will take. The General Optical Council (GOC) could be merged with other regulators

The GOC seems not to have an appetite for actively protecting the public from illegal supply

The devolved governments will mature into their role and increasingly provide a moderating influence over UK politics?

EU law may also override UK law

What will the NHS be like in 10 years’ time? Fewer services available free? A managed reduction in acute sector beds? Successful vanguards being replicated everywhere? Or a continuation of chaotic decline and crisis?

The devolved Governments could choose to take over the regulation of professionals


Interest rates will rise at some point. There will be no return to high growth rates

Will consumers continue to shop cautiously?

Government expenditure will continue to be limited

The funding mechanisms in optics will continue not to reward the clinical work actually done

The living wage will affect optics, and some businesses may not survive

Will businesses continue to offer “free” sight tests? Will they continue to add elements to their standard sight test as technology advances

Reform of business rates?

Funding mechanisms may fail to follow the social and technological changes, e.g. consultations with older people who have complex heath needs will take longer

What will be the impact of austerity on health and social care? Will it have led to commissioners fully grasping the need to find cost-effective solutions outside hospital

A larger number of people will qualify as optometrists and this could put pressure on salaries. Although this will probably continue to differ by location. And the different profile of new optometrists (many more female) may mean that they take breaks out of the profession

The economics of running businesses will differ by location/type of area, but will the optical business market continue to be more and more dominated by multiples?

What are the implications for vertical integration in the market such as Luxottica’s venture into supply through John Lewis?

Far fewer taxpayers, compared to older dependents, means far less funding for public services

If health price inflation continues to rise, many types of service may become difficult to fund


Continuing growth in internet purchasing. Use of online sources of information

People will still have a poor understanding of what optometrists do

Role of health professionals in promoting public health generally (eye GP – health related messaging)

Can we improve people’s understanding of optometry?

By 2030: 20 million people aged over 60 (from 14.7 in 2015) – many more living much longer

Eye health needs will rise in both old and young

In older people the needs will exist alongside other long term conditions such as diabetes and dementia which have implications for eye care in different ways, including chair time

Many more patients will appreciate home visits


Increasingly efficacious technology reduces (but does not replace) the need for a human expert

Virtual “try-on” of frames using tablets allows practices to hold “virtual stock”

Availability of self-refraction and auto-refraction technology

3D scanning/digitisation of patients’ heads to allow home 3D printing of custom frames

The ability with relatively small investment of circa £3m to produce an OCT costing £1000

Even more mobile technology in the home and workplace. Opportunities for domiciliary businesses?

Remote interpretation of results could make it easier for optometrists to deliver services in the community

Other developments include therapeutic delivery by contact lens and monitoring health through wearable technology

 Legal/ regulatory

Potential for DOs to be given refracting rights

Potential for deregulation of dispensing or sight test restrictions

Potential extension of roles of orthoptists and ophthalmic nurses

What role can optometrists play in wider NHS teams such as falls and stroke clinics?

What are the education and training implications for everything in the first box?

What should that mean for regulation?

So what is the future for optometrists? Will they take on extra skills currently in the realm of ophthalmologists? Expanded role in public health? 


Impact of the environment on eye health needs, including those related to lifestyle e.g. use of screens, not going outside, obesity

Will there be legislation to discourage waste and encourage recycling/use of recyclable and sustainable materials? What impact would that have on optics?

 What is the future for the High Street? Where wil people do their in-person shopping in the future? 
Join the discussion on our forums.