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“The growth we’re building is sustainable over the long-term”

In the last 12 months Specsavers’ domiciliary business has seen more than 100,000 patients. General manager of Specsavers Home Visits, Melanie Roberts, speaks to OT 

EM Melanie resized
Specsavers

Specsavers’ domiciliary business has “ambitious plans for growth,” the general manager of its domiciliary business (Home Visits), Melanie Roberts (pictured), told OT when reflecting on the last year, which she acknowledges has been hard but “incredibly rewarding.”

Currently the multiple has over 90 domiciliary partners running a total of 37 businesses across the UK, including Northern Ireland.

Roberts speaks to OT about the company’s experiences during the pandemic, the restructuring of the business and expansion plans for the future.

How has Specsavers’ domiciliary offering evolved over the last 12 months?

2020 was a transformational year for our home visits business. We made some significant changes to the way we operate in order to set the business up for sustainable long-term growth into the future.

We restructured our support teams, delivered several key projects to help grow our capacity and introduced new ways of working to make us more efficient – all while navigating a pandemic and ensuring we remained available to help our customers. The changes we made were planned and already underway in March 2020, but implementing them while operating during a global pandemic wasn’t, so it was a very challenging period for us in a lot of ways. However, we’ve emerged stronger as a result and we’re seeing some really exciting growth already.

How has the domiciliary business been affected by the pandemic?

Many of our customers are elderly and/or clinically vulnerable so it was a period of real nervousness and uncertainty for them and their families. With the need for so many people to shield in accordance with government advice, we also experienced a sudden and significant increase in the number of people asking for our help.

Our partners and colleagues were absolutely determined to find a way to care for everyone safely, so we worked closely with our Specsavers clinical colleagues, the NHS and the College of Optometrists to put the necessary protocols in place to ensure we were ‘open for care’ as quickly as possible.

As hard as the last year has been, it’s also been an incredibly rewarding period for us – we’ve been able to help more than 100,000 people in the last 12 months, which wouldn’t have been possible without the efficiencies and additional capacity we created through our transformational plans.

It feels good to know that we’re helping more and more people all the time, and by doing that, our partners are able to employ more people and grow their businesses – which means we’re creating the capacity to offer even more people access to our clinically excellent and affordable care at the same time as offering more and more jobs and partnership opportunities. The growth we’re building is sustainable over the long term, it’s not a temporary result of the pandemic.

Our ambition is to make ourselves available to as many people who need us as we can - growing the business at pace and caring for more and more people who can’t leave their homes

 

What ambitions does Specsavers have for its domiciliary offering over the next 12 months?

We need to continue growing capacity to ensure we can keep pace with customer demand and achieve our long-term ambitions. We also want to continue raising awareness of our home visit service so that everyone who needs us, knows we’re available to help.

And what about over the next five years?

We believe that Specsavers Home Visits represents community healthcare at its very best and is the perfect companion service to our High Street offering. Ensuring, no matter what a customer’s personal circumstances are, that Specsavers is available to all.

Our ambition is to make ourselves available to as many people who need us as we can - growing the business at pace and caring for more and more people who can’t leave their homes.

Growing the business also means we are offering lots of new opportunities to join our business.

The day-to-day variety of domiciliary offers a whole new way of working; no two days are ever the same, and the wide range of conditions and pathology that you see makes domiciliary optometry a clinically engaging and diverse career choice

 

Is Specsavers currently recruiting in this area?

Absolutely, we are recruiting. We’re recruiting optometrists, dispensers, optical assistants and customer service colleagues all the time, and we have opportunities all over the UK including Northern Ireland. We also have a number of partnership and ‘partner in development’ opportunities available.

What are you looking for in a domiciliary optometrist?

Helping people is at the core of what it means to work in domiciliary. It’s a role where you can combine your passion for optics with the opportunity to change the lives of the most vulnerable people in your community, whilst also enabling you to balance work and home life in a way that is rarely achievable in traditional optometry careers.

The day-to-day variety of domiciliary offers a whole new way of working; no two days are ever the same, and the wide range of conditions and pathology that you see makes domiciliary optometry a clinically engaging and diverse career choice – along with the satisfaction of knowing you are truly changing lives on a daily basis.

Our domiciliary optometrists come from a wide range of cultural and experiential backgrounds and age ranges. What they all have in common is their care and compassion for people and their commitment to making sure that those who can’t leave their homes are not disadvantaged.

The availability of domiciliary services is key to ensuring our society’s health and care systems are fit for an ageing and growing population

 

Why is domiciliary an important avenue for the sector now and in the future?

The availability of domiciliary services is key to ensuring our society’s health and care systems are fit for an ageing and growing population. Specsavers is committed to supporting the NHS and the UK Government in achieving this objective.

It’s important to remember that it’s not only those customers who cannot leave the house we’re helping; often the fact that we can provide optometry services at home is a welcome relief to the families and carers of our customers. The extent to which domiciliary optometry can improve someone’s quality of life and provide peace of mind to the people who love and care for them shouldn’t be underestimated.