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“The future looks very promising for domiciliary care”

OT  spoke to OutsideClinic managing director, Richard Gibson, about the company’s newly announced recruitment drive, the growing over-65 patient demographic and its ambitions for the next five years

OutsideClinic optometrist doing eye test
“Domiciliary optometry is a misunderstood sector, it has an outdated image to a certain degree,” managing director of the OutsideClinic, Richard Gibson, explained to OT when discussing the company’s latest recruitment drive.

“Domiciliary care used to be all about visiting nursing homes where you would see lots of patients at once, but our core business moved away from that years ago. Most of our visits are now at home,” Gibson assured. “Our opticians only see six patients a day, and they spend an hour with them really getting to know them and their needs. They also have access to the very latest technology so they can offer our patients a gold standard service,” he explained.

On Monday (28 June), the OutsideClinic announced it largest-ever recruitment drive as it seeks to appoint 50 optometrists to join its team.

The recruitment drive, which will see the company’s optometry team grow from 75 to 125, is a direct result of an “astonishing” surge in demand that the domiciliary provider has experienced for its services this year.

“We have been gradually increasing over a long period of time, probably partly due to COVID-19,” Gibson shared, explaining that many more people who would have previously struggled to attend a High Street opticians have come forward to seek OutsideClinic’s NHS sight test services during the pandemic.

“The pandemic has focused people’s minds on the fact that they can get services at home and that has allowed people to look at what services are available. It has then enabled those people who may have previously struggled to get to a High Street opticians in the past to opt to have their eye care at home,” Gibson explained.

Paired with the pandemic, the managing director attributes the OutsideClinic’s gradual growth to the increasing over 65s age group, which he said has also “fuelled demand.”

However, Gibson identifies the trigger for the large surge in recent months to be the result of a targeted marketing push following the acquisition of the OutsideClinic by the Optimism Health Group.

The pandemic has focused people’s minds on the fact that they can get services at home… people who may have previously struggled to get to a High Street opticians in the past to opt to have their eye care at home

 

Under new reins

In December last year, the OutsideClinic was purchased by Optimism Health Group, a development that Gibson said has allowed the company to “really look at what we offer in fine detail.”

“Being bought by Optimism Health Group was a big change for OutsideClinic, having been with the same owner for 30-plus years. But it has been fantastic; they have really understood the detail of what OutsideClinic does and been able to extract the best out of us,” Gibson told OT.

The new partnership resulted in the OutsideClinic refreshing its focus on marketing, with the domiciliary provider taking a localised and targeted approach, which Gibson believes is the primary reason for the company’s growth.

“We have localised our marketing because our customers want to feel like the optician is from within their area. This has been tricky as our opticians do not have a local practice on the High Street. But this key change has made a big difference for us,” he shared.

In fact, the marketing strategy was so successful, that the company has had to suspend activity until it can recruit more optometrists to deal with the demand, Gibson revealed.

The quality of care that you can provide in domiciliary eye care is fantastic and the difference that our opticians make to our patients’ lives is huge

 

What’s on offer?

So why work for OutsideClinic OT asked Gibson, whose response was simple: “It is such a rewarding career.”

“The quality of care that you can provide in domiciliary eye care is fantastic and the difference that our opticians make to our patients’ lives is huge,” he said, adding: “We go to see a customer in their own home who may not have had an eye test for 15–20 years and with a new pair of glasses they can read, they can see out in the garden, and so much more.”

The managing director explained that OutsideClinic optometrists work 9am–5.30pm Monday through to Friday, with no weekend working. He highlighted that contracts also do not have to be five days a week, and “we are flexible with the hours as well, meaning, if needed, our opticians can work around school drop off and pick up times, for example.”

Gibson identified the biggest misconception of domiciliary optometry as the quality of care that is provided to patients, explaining that the company’s clinicians have access to all the technology that they would on the High Street, apart from optical coherence tomography.

“But we are in discussions with universities in the US to see if we can create something portable,” he added.

Gibson highlighted that all OutsideClinic optometrists undergo a four-week training programme to prepare them for every aspect of the role.

“Our opticians complete every part of the eye test through to the dispense, so when a new recruit joins, they will be trained until they feel comfortable in every aspect.”

Once in the field, optometrists can also utilise the company’s peer support through its pro-service team, meaning an optometrist is always in the office on standby to offer a second opinion.

The ambition over the next five years is to get beyond the £100m turnover. That is driven by the growth in population and the demand that we are seeing for our services

 

Growing further

Speaking about the future of the OutsideClinic, Gibson predicts that further growth and recruitment is on the cards.

“This time next year, when hopefully we have recruited our 50 opticians, we will be able to provide our services to an even higher proportion of the over 65s who require care at home. And we only see this demographic and therefore demand for our services growing even further.”

This year the company is “well on target” to over-achieve on its targeted £30m turnover, making it a record year for the business.

In the next five years, the OutsideClinic aspires to grow to a business with a turnover of £100m a year.

“This ambition is driven by the growth in population and the demand that we are seeing for our services in eye care and hearing care,” Gibson stated.

“The future looks very promising for domiciliary care,” Gibson added.

To learn more about the recruitment drive, visit OutsideClinic’s website.

Four OutsideClinic optometrists discuss domiciliary optometry