01 Earlier this year I put forward a proposal, and subsequently secured funding, for an innovative new project that would see the rollout of healthy living optical practices in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
On receiving the funding, I reached out to Shamina Asif who successfully spearheaded the Healthy Living Optical Practice scheme in Dudley and Liam Stapleton who had rolled out the Healthy Living Pharmacy scheme locally.
The aim is to have around 20 practices in each county accredited as healthy optical practices. Then, with the workforce armed, we can go to the commissioners and Public Health England locally and see if we can get services such as smoking cessation, NHS health checks and alcohol screening commissioned.
02 For me, healthy living opticians fits well with a number of things that are happening at the moment.
The NHS talks about people living longer, healthier lives, and living more independently. Therefore, while sight issues will come into play, so do general health issues like obesity and smoking. There is a need to move some services out of primary care and GP practices, and clearly optical practices are well placed to support with this as they are seeing a lot of people on the High Street in convenient, easy to access locations.
Being a Healthy Living Optical Practice works well in every type of practice – from the large multiple to the small independent, I don’t see a draw back. For small independents, becoming a Healthy Living Optical Practice works because they experience a lot of competitive pressures, and offering advice and potentially new services, helps embed patient trust and loyalty. Equally for a multiple, they will have more support staff who can be eye health champions and have the time to disseminate this advice. They also have the benefit of a high footfall of patients.
"Being a Healthy Living Optical Practice works well in every type of practice – from the large multiple to the small independent, I don’t see a draw back"
03 An estimated 50 people representing around 20–25 practices attended launch events in each of the counties on the 22 and 24 May.
The aim of the evenings was to engage with practices in the areas and to inform them about what is involved in becoming a Healthy Living Optical Practice and to discuss the benefits. They could then either sign up on the night or can express their interest at a later date – we will run training at regular intervals so if someone misses out initially, they will have the opportunity in the not so distant future.
04 We are currently in the process of arranging accreditation training and hope to have this completed by the end of July.
As part of the training, we ask at least one practice manager or optometrist from each practice to complete leadership training, which involves a day out of practice and explores the development of leadership skills. It is training that a lot of people do not have access to as part of their career development in optometry and is beneficial to the role they play in practice, as well as the requirements of accreditation.
We also ask that at least two members of a practice train to become health care champions. This should be people who are motivated and can use their own initiative when it comes to talking to and signposting patients, as well as helping to lead other optical assistants. This training is one day of face-to-face or online learning with an exam at the end and results in a Royal Society of Public Health Level 2 certificate.
On accreditation, each practice receives marketing collateral, including a banner that they can display to highlight that they are a Healthy Living Optical Practice and information to use in the health promotion zone that they create in practice.
05 Practices have nothing to lose by signing up and becoming a Healthy Living Optical Practice.
At worst, staff receive leadership training, as well as health care champion training, for free, which contributes to the development of their team. At work they are able to give health care advice to patients, which can increase loyalty and trust. Plus, in the future, it may lead to a new revenue stream if and when services are commissioned. Plus, we will try to make it as easy as possible to get involved.
For more information and to sign up to become a Healthy Living Optical Practice if you are based within the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire area, email firstname.lastname@example.org.