Doug Perkins calls on profession to embrace extended optical services

The co-founder of Specsavers, Doug Perkins, said change is afoot for optics as he addressed delegates at 100% Optical

Co-founder of Specsavers, Doug Perkins

Settled back into life in the UK, having spent much time establishing Specsavers in Australia and New Zealand, Mr Perkins' new focus is on extended optical services, he told delegates at 100% Optical.

“There are opportunities ahead in optics,” Mr Perkins said, adding “people have got to get it into their hearts and minds that they need to engage in extended optical services.”

“It won’t happen overnight, but I hope [through this talk] that you will be encouraged to begin that journey,” he added.

Discussing why he thinks change is afoot, Mr Perkins informed delegates: “Optics hasn’t changed much in the last few decades in terms of its clinical offering.”

Expanding on this, the optometrist acknowledged that the retail side of optics has changed “immensely,” but highlighted that “in the clinical environment, what most aim to do is exactly the same.”

During the talk, Mr Perkins identified the emergence of optometrists with specialties as a sign that change is certainly on its way. “If there are already people with specialties in the sector, which there are, the clinical world is already beginning to change and it is going to be significantly different in the future,” he stressed.

Touching on the drivers for change, Mr Perkins labelled the ageing population and stretched eye departments as key factors. “Eye departments are the third biggest overhead in the NHS and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) have got to do something about that,” he said.

Emphasising the importance of the sector working together to advance and achieve this revolution, Mr Perkins said: “As a sector we must work together with complete transparency.”

He added: “We are not competing with independents or other multiples. If they are effective that helps us because the industry needs to demonstrate to the health service that there is a job and an opportunity to expand optometry. The risk if we don’t do it is the commoditisation of our business and competing with the internet, which is not a pleasant experience.”

Mr Perkins identified the work being carried out in Wales as something that the whole profession should aspire to and added: “Our message is to start thinking about training and education in a systematic way; work with all of the schemes that are available to you.”

Encouraging the profession to begin to act now, Mr Perkins said: “The NHS is slow moving, but the fact that it is moving slowly doesn’t mean that we need to sit back. We can be more proactive and get our key messages and training ready for the revolution that is inevitable.”

He continued: “The more that we can encourage the health service that we are ready, the more likely it is to respond and appraise the opportunities that are there for us. If we don’t step up, there are ophthalmology groups and medical groups standing by to take advantage of community eye care. They are doing other things in the Five Year Forward View, so why not step into our territory?”

Displaying an unfaltering passion for driving the profession forward, Mr Perkins said: “This is my focus now and I will not move on until I can see the required collaboration taking place.”