BCLA welcomes new president

Neil Retallic takes on the position from Indie Grewal, who has held the role over the past year

Neil Retallic and Indie Grewal handshake
The British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) has welcomed its new president, Neil Retallic, through its annual general meeting which took place virtually last week (9 September).

He takes on the title of president from Indie Grewal, owner and optometrist at Leightons St Albans.

Retallic, global professional services manager for Menicon, is involved in a number of organisations across the sector including the General Optical Council’s Education Committee and as chair of the BCLA Education Committee. He is a past chair of the British and Irish University and College Contact Lens Educators and has been awarded fellowships from the BCLA and the International Association of Contact Lens Educators (IACLE).

He is an assessor and examiner for the College of Optometrists and has previously held roles as professional services manager for CooperVision, learning and development manager for Vision Express, and optometry teaching fellow for the University of Manchester.

Retallic’s inaugural address, ‘The person behind the contact lens – through a pandemic and beyond,’ explored how, following COVID-19: “To keep our patients happy, healthy, and successful with contact lens wear, we need to think about the person behind the lens.”

Describing the “unprecedented degree of change” experienced by contact lens wearers and eye care professionals (ECPs), Retallic said: “Together we have climbed a new unknown mountain, responding well by maximising ways to communicate remotely, and adapting our clinics to respect COVID-19 guidance on PPE, hygiene, ventilation, and social distancing measures.”

Digital transformation in health care has supported the profession through this journey, he suggested, but as restrictions ease, he questioned – “which path do we follow?”

“As ECPs we need to understand the emotional consequences of COVID-19 and the resulting mental health crisis,” Retallic suggested. “We must go the extra mile and adopt a holistic person-centred health care approach to maximise our contact lens wearer’s performance, ocular and mental health.”

Exploring the impact changes in patient’s lifestyles can have, Retallic highlighted increased digital device use, dry eye and its impact on sleep quality and mental health, and issues like mask-associated dry eye.

ECPs are well-placed to pick up on signs of issues, he suggested, such as noting if patients’ motivation levels or compliance have dropped and asking open questions about any changes in their lifestyle or medication.

He explained: “It may mean our new world of history and symptoms involves asking about some of these things, including whether they are using masks and how they incorporate them into their day-to-day life, if we want to tease out issues that are potentially going to lead to dry eye or impact contact lenses, and potentially lead to contact lens drop out.”

Emotional or behavioural changes in patients might also mean adapting the patient journey or how messages are delivered or reinforced, Retallic pointed out – such as providing digital resources or written reminders for a patient who might be feeling anxious.

“We know that behaviours are changing and people may need a bit more emotional support than they once did,” he said, suggesting adaptations could help to “ease their journey to successful contact lens wear.”

Highlighting the methods ECPs could use to communicate with patients to address issues and encourage them in their use of contact lenses, Retallic said: “This is not about ‘I have a plan for you,’ it is about, ‘We have a plan together that we can work on.’”

He also pointed out that, with the public increasingly turning to social media, the profession needs to consider how this can be used to cascade messages to patients and the public, “to remain the number one source for information.”

Concluding, Retallic observed: “The mental health crisis should open our eyes to new ways of looking at how we approach eye care, this transformation in eye care services – which we need to embrace and adapt to suit our patients – and moving forwards, a holistic health care approach working with multidisciplinary teams.”