01 In 2018, the Local Eye Health Network was successful in securing funding to establish Healthy Living Optical Practices in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
The funding was to provide practices that were interested in being part of the initiative with health champion training and leadership training, both of which are requirements to be part of the project. Having originated in Dudley, the Healthy Living Optical Practice initiative enabled optical practices to offer further healthcare to patients, including NHS health checks, smoking cessation services, alcohol screening and weight management.
02 Around 10 months ago, we hosted information evenings in each of the counties, inviting all practices in Nottingham and Derbyshire to attend to find out more about what the Healthy Living Optical Practice initiative is and what it involves.
During the evenings, which were attended by roughly 50 people, we asked for expressions of interest from those who would like to be involved. Generally, people’s main reservations for getting involved were around performing additional services for free and not being certain of the benefits that it would bring to the practice. My response to this is that, at worst, practices receive some free health champion training, which helps to educate colleagues in the practice about health issues that patients may have and undoubtedly helps them in their jobs, as well as free leadership training, which will help them develop as a professional.
While some practices see being a Healthy Living Optical Practice as offering yet more services for free, others see it as another string to their bow, which separates them in a competitive market and helps them stand out from other practices.
03 Over the summer of 2018, a total of 12 practices signed up to become accredited Healthy Living Optical Practices, with some having now taken up training.
We have hosted the first health champion training event, which representatives from all of the practices involved attended. This training is one day of face-to-face or online learning and results in a Royal Society of Public Health Level 2 certificate. At the end of the training day everyone involved took a short exam, for which we had a 100% pass rate.
By the end of March we will have hosted the required leadership training events also.
Following the completion of the leadership course, each practice will receive assistance in setting a health promotion area in their store so they can display suitable information for patients.
They will receive marketing collateral, which includes a banner highlighting that they are a Healthy Living Optical Practice and patient leaflets. Following an inspection, they will be officially accredited as a Level 1 Healthy Living Optical Practice.
04 I think optical practices are fairly low on the minds of local commissioners and this initiative could help raise our profile as it helps us move in the right circles.
The bigger picture for the Healthy Living Optical Practice initiative in Nottingham and Derbyshire is that we will provide these additional health services while collecting data on the patient benefits that offering this care in an opticians brings and will be able to present a case to Public Health England to be funded for it.
That is the carrot at the end of all of this. By being able to demonstrate that we have a trained workforce who are able to engage effectively with the public on additional healthcare matters in a way that patients like puts us in a good position to seek payment for these services in the future – it is something to work towards.
05 While the first cohort of Healthy Living Optical Practices in Nottingham and Derbyshire are now close to accreditation, we will begin a new recruitment drive this summer in a bid to attract more.
There is still money in the pot from the initial funding that was secured from Public Health England to enable us to provide the required training to further practices, as well as provide ongoing support to all those involved in the initiative.
I certainly don’t envisage this project being something that stops once this first group of practices become accredited. This first cohort will hopefully help to demonstrate to other practices locally how it can increase patient trust and loyalty, how it is good for staff because it enhances their job role, and that it is good for the business too.
For more information and to get involved with the Healthy Living Optical Practices scheme if your practice is based in Nottinghamshire or Derbyshire, contact David Cartwright.
- As told to Emily McCormick.
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