“We are at a crossroads”

OT  speaks to Specsavers co-founder and chief executive, Doug Perkins, ahead of the company’s keynote lecture 100% Optical 2020

100% Optical main stage

In 10 years’ time optics will look very different to what it does today, predicts co-founder and chief executive of Specsavers Doug Perkins.

Talking to OT about the multiple’s Main Stage education session at 100% Optical on Saturday (25 January), Mr Perkins explained that optometry is at an important crossroads and the action taken now will determine the profession’s direction over the next decade.

“[Optometry is] under the forces of significant disruptive change and we have never had so much change from the outside world as we have at this moment in time,” he emphasised.

Entitled The future of optometry: partnering with the NHS, the one-hour CET-accredited lecture will explore why optometry must prove its value to the NHS in order to survive and thrive as a primary healthcare profession in the future.

The disruptors

Explaining the disruptive changes that he observes affecting optometry currently, Mr Perkins pinpoints economic, political, social and technology changes, adding that new competition coming into the sector is strong.

Politically, Mr Perkins explained that “the NHS is under stress in terms of both money and personnel.” He believes that “joining the gap” between primary and secondary care is important for the future of optometry. “The medical profession is very important to [optometry]. We need to close the gap and show that we are willing to make their lives easier, while also demonstrating that we can save hospital trusts money and stress.”

Consistency is important too, and Mr Perkins feels that the sector is not currently demonstrating how it can consistently deliver quality of care for the NHS. In order to achieve this, data and governance is key, Mr Perkins highlighted.

Mr Perkins said that in economic terms, people are “more hard up than ever before,” and, as a result, the internet is a tempting option for eye care solutions. This temptation grows “as services evolve and become more sophisticated,” he explained to OT. Consequently, customer service is pivotal on the High Street.

“We must demonstrate a high standard of care. Optometry does a good job, but we must demonstrate it so that when people go home, they tell their friends that they received a standout experience that is unchallengeable,” Mr Perkins said.

The direction

Mr Perkins believes that new “killer-sized competition” in retail has been an accelerant to disruption in the marketplace. He warns that if “everyday” optometrists look at the realities of the sector and do nothing they will become “severely challenged.”

He concluded that working closely with the NHS and being in “their tent” is the only safe place for optometry to be.

The CET-accredited lecture will take place on the Main Stage on Saturday (25 January) at 12:30pm. It will be delivered by Giles Edmonds, Paul Morris and Peter Larsen.