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Flux or freedom?

Focusing on the here and now, OT  discusses the return of in-person events and a new initiative launched by the AOP

people talking
Getty/Angelina Bambina

Whispers of a potential ‘firebreak’ lockdown circulated in the news this week, just as life started to feel like the good old days back in 2019.

Reported as a ‘reveal’ story on the front-page of inews the Government quickly quashed any reports stating: “It is not true that the Government is planning a lockdown or firebreak around the October half term.”

Whatever the Government decides with regards to a potential lockdown, it’s hard to predict what the future may hold. While society feels like it’s returning to some form of normality, should we be cautious or just ride the wave of current freedom and enjoy it?

For one day this week, like many others across the country, I returned to the office to slowly familiarise myself with the daily commute and catch up with colleagues. On Monday this week, in London alone, the London Underground recorded its busiest morning since the start of the pandemic, up 17% from last Tuesday with just under two million contactless “tap-ins” recorded by Transport for London. This conjured up mixed feelings of joy as aspects of life return to what they once were pre-pandemic combined with confusion because we are still living in a pandemic status.

Finding the right balance between being cautious and feeling a sense of freedom is a difficult path to navigate. In the current edition of OT, we spoke to locum optometrist, Rebecca Rushton, who reflected on her experience working as a locum during the pandemic, focusing on the positives.

Perhaps following Rebecca’s lead focusing on the positives and embracing new opportunities is a good place to start.

New opportunities have arisen with the resurgence of events. Businesses are now starting to organise more events and the OT team has also started to attend in-person events again. OT was able to meet and film an interview with the RNIB’s strategic accessibility lead, Marc Powell, discussing the charity’s pop-up corner shop designed to highlight the difficultly that blind and partially sighted people have accessing information on packaging. Watch OT’s video interview here.

Many optometrists worked throughout the pandemic so the novelty of returning to your workplace may not be as prevalent for this workforce. However, you may be starting to consider attending large scale optical events or conferences. Whatever your preference, either in-person or online, there is something for everyone.

This month the Hospital Optometrists Annual Conference, hosted by the AOP, will be held as a virtual one-day event on Saturday 25 September. The programme for this year will include four lectures and two peer discussions. If you’re interested in attending register for the online event on the AOP website. 

The UK’s largest optical event, 100% Optical, opened for visitor registration this week. The event will take place from 22–24 January 2022 at ExCeL London. The three-day show is set to be one of the first major optical event since the start of the pandemic, connecting optical professionals for opportunities to network, see the latest in eyewear, and gain valuable education. In the next October/November edition of OT we will be reporting on COVID-19 safety measures that the event organisers will be implementing. So if you’re still unsure if you would like to attend keep an eye out for this article.

In addition to events, there are also other initiatives and campaigns to look forward to. This week the AOP launched its new mentoring programme for newly-qualified optometrist and dispensing optician members. The programme is designed to help newly-qualified optometrists in the early stages of their career by pairing them with volunteer mentors.

This is a great opportunity for both newly-qualified optometrists to learn new skills and feel supported, and also for experienced optometrists to help to develop and nurture someone new to the industry.

If you’re more of a campaigner, National Eye Health Week (NEHW) takes place from 20 to 26 September and there are plenty of different ways to get involved, from online campaigning to raising awareness in your practice. More information about how to get involved can be found on the NEHW website. 

OT  asks...

Are you planning on attending any optical events in the foreseeable future?

  • Yes, I would like start attending in-person events

    15 38%
  • Yes, but only online events

    6 15%
  • Maybe, but I don’t want to plan anything yet

    15 38%
  • No, I don’t feel comfortable attending events

    2 5%
  • No, not interested

    1 2%