“September and October are probably the peak of activity for the organisation”

AOP chief executive, Adam Sampson, shares insight into the work of the AOP over the coming months as teams across the Association gear up for September and beyond

Getty/George Peters

Most of the trappings of being a CEO are ones I can well do without. The traditional markers of status – the big office with the big desk – only serve to distance you from the most important resource any CEO can call on: your co-workers. And while a bit of distance can add a patina of mystique to a CEO, the Adam Sampson of gossip and rumour is typically wiser and more thoughtful than the real thing.

But one thing I, like most CEOs, cannot do without is a wonderful, hardworking, organised PA/executive assistant. The model of administrative efficiency, Janice Phillips (Jan) ensures that I stay on the right side of ineffective chaos. And if that is true generally, it is particularly true at this time of year.

August may be something of a down period, a time when people can relax a bit and take some well-earned holiday (and certainly AOP colleagues have been working hard over the past months). But September and October are probably the peak of activity for the organisation and August is also the time when I need most help in preparing for what is to come. Once I am back from my own holiday in late September, I run straight into a Board meeting and annual strategy day, followed by successive weekends giving speeches and meeting MPs at the Conservative and Labour Party conferences. Then I am off to the Netherlands for the European Council of Optometry and Optics. (ECOO) conference, before heading to meetings in Glasgow, Belfast and Cardiff, plus a couple of key encounters with broader healthcare representative bodies. Throughout, thankfully, I can rely on Jan to make sure that I pitch up at the right place at the right time, with the right materials to hand.

From above the water, the AOP duck is sailing serenely on. From underneath, there is an awful lot of paddling


And that’s just my diary. A glance at the AOP calendar and you see commercial director, Wendy Steele, and her team spending September and October in introductory meetings with the new intake of optometry students in universities up and down the UK. You also see senior AOP colleagues including clinical and professional director, Dr Peter Hampson, at Specsavers PAC and the five nations optometry gathering in Belfast.

Policy director, Carolyn Ruston, and her team will be hard at work responding to the recent glut of consultations and driving forward our work as part of The Eyes Have It coalition in preparation for Westminster Eye Health Day in November (when Carolyn herself is not at the Optometry Scotland reception at Holyrood in Edinburgh). Communications director, John White, and his team have scheduled in more campaigning and media activity to support our asks of the Government and the NHS. And, of course, the AOP will be out in force at the Local Optical Committee Support Unit’s National Optical Conference in St Neots in November.

That is just our external-facing programme for the next three months. Internally, there is a huge programme of work to be undertaken, ranging from reviewing our IT systems to undertaking a detailed analysis of the potential impact of artificial intelligence on the sector. And of course, it being the autumn, the process of planning and budgeting for next year and preparing for membership renewals on 1 January will also be going on in parallel. From above the water, the AOP duck is sailing serenely on. From underneath, there is an awful lot of paddling.

The next couple of months on the road give me the chance to do what I am best at: driving up the profile and influence of the AOP. It also gives the staff of the organisation the space to get on with their jobs without the risk of the damn CEO interfering.