The Heywood, Middleton, Rochdale & Bury area didn’t have a strong relationship with its CCG (then PCT) when I first got involved with my local optical committee (LOC).
It’s not that it was a bad relationship, it was simply non-existent.
Make yourself known
As a starting point, we researched what primary care meetings were taking place in our area that would benefit from an eye care representative and simply asked if we could attend.
These meetings normally occur on a monthly basis and I admit that at first, it felt useless attending. Specifically, I began attending a clinical commissioning committee meeting and I’d sit there and feel that I had nothing to contribute for long periods of time. However, what I learnt is that by the LOC being there, we were slowly raising the profile of eye health and by being a regular fixture, we became the ‘go to’ people for eye health-related issues in the area.
When it comes to building relationships with CCGs, you should not underestimate the importance of the type of person that needs to be forming them – they must be personable, approachable and enthusiastic.
Once we had built a healthy relationship with our CCG and embedded ourselves in the relevant committees, we were able to begin the conversations about services in the area.
Regularly attending the primary care meetings provided us with insight into the issues that existed in the area and allowed us to hone our bids around the specific need. One thing I learnt early on was the importance of not gunning in and expecting everyone to understand the clinical aspects of your case. It’s important to keep things basic when explaining issues so that a layperson can understand. If you talk at a high level, you will quickly lose the room, and people will potentially not get on board because they don’t understand.
However, presenting your case in basic language doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have key data and business case examples available to share and when you say you are going to provide a report on something, you should deliver a thorough and comprehensive report.
"By being a regular fixture, I became the 'go to' person for eye-health related issues in the area"
Before bidding for a contract, I would encourage LOCs to speak to at least one LOC peer who is already offering the service that you are bidding for, because they can provide invaluable insight into set up, data and expected outcomes. Seeking advice from your local LOC Support Unit (LOCSU) optical lead, as well as utilising the Unit’s business cases, is also beneficial.
In addition, think about the contract from the CCG’s point of view and try to understand what it is aiming to achieve through commissioning the service. If you can understand this, you can deduce what will best hook them into your proposal from what information and data is available to you.
Combined with this, I have learnt the benefit of going out to practices in the area to gauge an expression of interest ahead of the bid because the delivery of a service is reliant on the local workforce being keen and prepared to deliver it.
While there are many benefits to offering a range of enhanced eye care services in the community, you should be aware that you won’t win every battle and should therefore select your bids wisely. It doesn’t matter how good your relationship is with a local commissioner, they will not send every contract your way, especially if it doesn’t save them any money.