Lauren, AOP member
“I qualified as an optometrist in September and I am working full-time at a small optical group in the south of England. I have been encouraged by a senior optometrist to join our local optical committee, but I’m not sure how much I will have to contribute as I am newly-qualified and still learning about the profession. I’m nervous about joining. Where can I learn more about what’s involved?”
Mark Simpson, optometrist and secretary of Cheshire LOC
Personally, I was voted onto Cheshire Local Optical Committee (LOC) in March 2015 after expressing an interest to the then secretary at a CET event it was hosting. While not newly-qualified per se, I was only five years into my career and was the youngest on the committee. Therefore, I can relate to your nervousness.
LOCs across England host CET events for local practitioners throughout the year and if you are considering joining, I would highly recommend attending an event and speaking to practitioners on your LOC. I went along with a senior colleague who knew people in the area and was able to introduce me to people, which was supportive.
I initially wanted to get involved in my LOC because I had an interest in enhanced eye care services, but I didn’t fully understand what the LOC did. Attending the CET event allowed me to learn more about the function of an LOC, as well as what being on one would involve.
Alternatively, every LOC has a website where you will find the contact details for someone on the committee who you can email to introduce yourself.
“I really believe that getting involved in my LOC has opened up a new chapter in my life and it has been fantastic”
The function of the LOC
Generally speaking, LOCs meet around three to four times a year as a committee. The aim of these meetings is to make decisions and discuss topics on the local agenda such as General Ophthalmic Services regulation, terms of service, clinical governance and enhanced services. The LOC is also the first point of contact for Clinical Commissioning Groups and it leads on the negations for potential future enhanced services.
LOCs will host an annual general meeting once a year and, while anyone can attend as an observer, you can only be involved in the decisions being made if you are on the committee.
Cheshire LOC has 12 committee members, each of whom has a dedicated role. An example of the types of roles available on LOCs include: chair, secretary, treasurer, information governance lead, PEC liaison officer, CET organiser and website manager.
I can assure that being on an LOC will not take up a lot of your time, which I know can be a concern for practitioners who are thinking about getting involved.
When I first joined my LOC, I took on the role of web manager, which took a couple of hours of my time every other week. Then, every quarter there is an evening committee meeting to attend, which takes up around three hours of my time.
As an optometrist primarily, I get a lot from being on my LOC. It has opened many doors and resulted in a number of career development opportunities.
Being on my LOC has given me the chance to take part in a range of additionally funded courses, including a postgraduate course at Cardiff University, a Local Optical Committee Support Unit clinical and performers lead module and a postgraduate course in leadership skills for optical professionals. Obviously this is optional, but by completing this training I have gained a plethora of new skills that have helped me develop and advance as an optometrist.
Furthermore, over the past year Primary Eye Care Companies have been merging and thanks to the skills that I have acquired through my LOC, I secured the role of clinical governance and performance lead for Cheshire and Merseyside.
The LOC has helped me to build strong links with practitioners across the country doing similar roles at different LOCs.
“As well as opening new doors, it can significantly improve your knowledge of what is going on in your area and help build knowledgeable relationships with people who can provide advice and support in many aspects of your future career.”
I would encourage newly-qualified optometrists like yourself to get involved in your LOC because it can spark new opportunities if you are willing to give up just a small amount of your time.
As well as opening new doors, it can significantly improve your knowledge of what is going on in your area and help build knowledgeable relationships with people who can provide advice and support in many aspects of your future career. It is definitely a steep learning curve, but at the end you can start to provide support and advice to your peers entering the profession, which in turn is very rewarding.
If you decide to take the leap and get involved in your LOC, I would strongly encourage you to embrace every opportunity with two hands. I really believe that getting involved in my LOC has opened up this new chapter in my life and it has been fantastic.
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