100% Optical

A helping hand from the clinical performance team

OT  speaks to optometrist and head of clinical performance at Specsavers, Russell Peake, about the purpose of the team he leads and its objectives for the year ahead

EM 100 Russell Peake 2

In 2022 Specsavers established a clinical performance team within its business with the remit of driving the clinical agenda and supporting the continual clinical and professional development of optometrists.

The team, which is now currently 12-strong and looking to grow further, is led by optometrist and head of clinical performance, Russell Peake.

Peake, who took up the position in August last year, has worked at Specsavers for over six years, previously holding roles including head of ophthalmic lenses, and head of contact lens operations.

Speaking to OT at 100% Optical about his new role, Peake said: “Providing clinical leadership is key to delivering our purpose – improving lives through better sight and hearing. Specsavers has always been an advocate for a continuous rise in the standard of optometry and supporting colleagues in their professional development. That’s why we have established the clinical performance consultants team.

There was a continual observation and a peer-to-peer feedback cycle in place that was really powerful


The development of the team

The concept of a clinical performance team within Specsavers is not new, with the multiple having introduced clinical performance consultants successfully to its businesses in New Zealand and Australia in 2017.

The team was originally introduced to the UK 18 months ago. However, it has since undergone some changes and been re-established to better suit the requirements of the UK business. “It was initially established in a slightly different guise,” Peake shared. Back then, those working within the team were called clinical engagement managers, and their main remit was focused on “looking after the wellbeing of optometrists, making sure they were happy, comfortable and confident in the role,” Peake said.

While the role still encompasses this, Peake explained that it has now evolved to become “much more about access to care, and making sure patients’ needs are met and they are seen in a timely fashion.”

“And, of course, behind all of that we still need brilliant, confident optometrists who love their role and get lots of job satisfaction out of it,” he added.

Appointed to lead on building and embedding the clinical performance team in the UK, Peake initially travelled to Australia last year to observe the role of the team in action.

Reflecting on his observations and learning during the week-long tour, Peake told OT it was interesting to see how optometrists were used to being continuingly observed by their peers.

“There was a culture over there where optometrists were sitting in on each other all of the time,” he said.

He explained: “When a clinical performance consultant visited a store, they would sit in on the optometrist. They were often observing purely from a patient perspective, providing feedback on the language used and the patient journey, for example. There was a continual observation and a peer-to-peer feedback cycle in place that was really powerful.”

Emphasising the positivity of the observations, Peake commented, “but [in the UK] observations are often less routine and if you have not had someone sit in on your sight test for a long time, it can be quite nerve-racking.”

Observation and feedback are something that Peake’s team will be embedding across their divisions in the UK. “It can take a bit of time to get used to, but it’s really valuable,” he said.

Peake also saw first-hand the benefit that a larger clinical performance team could have on the business and its clinicians, enabling the team’s Australian counterpart to “really get to know the practices and their requirements.”

“You could see the benefits there as consultants were more on hand and knew the practices well. Having a local clinician available to talk to colleagues and support them in getting closer to their communities was also key,” he shared.

With new services being added all the time and growing need to support secondary care, we need to ensure we are continually supporting the development of our optometrists to deliver patient centric care


The purpose of the team

Speaking about the purpose of the UK clinical performance team, Peake explains that his clinical performance consultants aim to work with optometrists in practice to ensure that they are “confident clinical experts, supported and able to provide patients with timely access to care.”

Access to care includes “enhanced optical services, such as glaucoma and cataract pathways,” Peake highlighted.

With the clinical performance team expanding – it is currently recruiting for new positions across the UK – Peake explained that his consultants will be able to focus and work more locally, increasing the support they can provide on the ground. “As our consultants become even more locally based, they will be able to become close to their community, build links with their LOCs, and work from the ground up to understand when and where those pathways are forming, and how they can best inform and support our optometrists in getting involved.”

“With new services being added all the time and growing need to support secondary care, we need to ensure we are continually supporting the development of our optometrists to deliver patient centric care. This development includes access to higher qualifications such as professional certificates and independent prescribing,” he added.

Locally, clinical performance consultants will be delivering training sessions across their regions on key topics, and will work with both practices and optometrists to provide 121 support where required.

Training programmes will be developed specifically for each division with the support of learnings from Specsavers’ clinical outcomes report, “which helps our practitioners better understand how their own clinical decision-making impacts on patient outcomes” Peake explained.

As the clinical performance team seeks to expand, OT asked Peake what he would say to optometrists considering applying.

“We want really passionate optometrists who want to help guide the future of optometry, and who are ready to embrace the changes that are coming in and want to help inspire and develop our optometrists to deliver those changes,” he shared.

Pictured (left to right) are: Specsavers clinical performance consultants, Kevin Liu, Russell Peake, Maria McAllister and Rakesh Kapoor