01 We became involved in the Healthy Living Optical Practice (HLOP) scheme in Dudley around two years ago and are the largest practice to be involved in Dudley town centre.
We signed up to the scheme as offering health-related services, such as smoking cessation and NHS health checks, felt like a natural extension of what we were already doing.
Myself and the practice team are very passionate about the health and wellbeing of Dudley residents and it felt that being accredited to offer these services fitted like a hand to a glove.
I believe that busy High Street practices like mine are a hub of the community, capable of offering a lot more than just eyes and ears services, and being a HLOP demonstrates this.
02 Prior to introducing the services, staff received dedicated training to enable them to deliver the services. Four employees, including myself, completed training to become health champions in order to administer the services.
However, we made sure that the whole team had a general knowledge of health advice because they are the people who engage with our customers on a daily basis, be it from booking appointments or going out in the community to boost engagement.
Coinciding with accreditation, we built a brand new easily-accessible, soundproof room, specifically designed for us to perform the new health services from. I wanted to do this because introducing these services was not a bolt on for the practice, it is something that we will continue to do forever and eternity. We run the health clinic seven days a week and while we take walk-ins, we also see internal referrals, as well as referrals from GPs.
03 In terms of the benefits that we receive from being part of this scheme, it gives us further credibility with the residents of Dudley that we not only look after their eyes and ears, but we now look after their health and wellbeing.
We are now having more medicalised conversations with our patients about their eyes, ears and general health, which ensures that we capture all of the relevant information to enable us to offer the optimal level of service and care.
Two years on, people are now really engaged and come to us to talk about general health questions and queries.
We have done a lot of marketing locally at store level to highlight the services that we offer. We have also gone out to local events and social groups such as the Women’s Institute, and engaged with GP surgeries and local hospitals. What we have found is that nothing beats word of mouth recommendations.
"We talk about eyes, we talk about health, we talk about smoking, we talk about drinking. However, what patients love is that we do not preach or judge to them, we are merely here to talk to them and sign post them if that is what they want"
04 Patient feedback has been absolutely amazing. They realise why we offer these services and are now asking if there are any other services that we can offer so that they don’t have to visit the GP or the hospital.
Generally, patients feel more comfortable visiting the familiarity of Specsavers Dudley. While we operate in a clinical environment, we are also very customer focused, which is different from the experience of going to a GP surgery.
We talk about eyes, we talk about health, we talk about smoking, we talk about drinking. However, what patients love is that we do not preach or judge them, we are merely here to talk to them and sign post them if that is what they want.
With the clinic open seven days a week, patients can access these services at a time that is convenient to them and in an accessible location that is close to both a bus station and drop off points. Patients have also commented on how they can come in and have their eyes, ears and health checked in one place, in one visit and they really appreciate that.
05. As a HLOP, being able to offer these services to patients in the local community is of huge benefit to us and them. However, if you are going to get involved you need to make sure that you are 100% engaged and have the correct facilities, systems and training in place in order to maximise the opportunity.
If you really want to engage in your community, this is something that you should do.
Looking to the future, I think the scheme can only grow. I think we are only scratching the surface of the services that we can offer. I think the future is really exciting and I’m watching this space to see where else we can engage with local medical organisations to assist them in any way we can.
The Healthy Living Optical Practice scheme is being rolled out in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. For more information and to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.