“Thousands” attend Specsavers PAC 2023

A range of topics, from homelessness and access to care, to dry eye and glaucoma, were explored at Specsavers’ Professional Advancement Conference

A birds eye view of conference delegates seated a tables listening to a lecture

Improving access to sight for people experiencing homelessness, the challenges and opportunities for optometry within glaucoma, and the management of dry eye, were just some of the broad range of topics discussed at Specsavers’ Professional Advancement Conference earlier this month.

Held at the ICC, Birmingham on 17 September, the annual educational conference was open to professionals across optics and audiology, including those outside of Specsavers, with “thousands” attending, organisers confirmed.

Yorkshire-based Specsavers optometrist, Ross Campbell, shared his experiences of volunteering for Vision Care for Homeless People (VCHP) when delivering a discussion workshop that explored access to care for this patient group.

During the session Campbell highlighted that homelessness is not only about rough sleeping, but also about people who are “removed from their home through no fault of their own.”

Campbell, an optometry partner at Specsavers Swaledale and Northallerton, also explained that people experiencing homelessness often cannot access benefits that entitle them to free NHS funded sight tests and glasses.

“When you don’t have a secure roof over your head, you’re not necessarily going to be thinking about when is your next eye test due? They may also feel uncomfortable going into High Street practices,” he said.

While speaking about volunteering for VCHP, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, Campbell highlighted that 82% of people experiencing homelessness were dispensed glasses during Christmas clinics run by the charity.

He shared that 32% required a referral for an eye condition or had a condition that needed management, while 10% required a referral to secondary care for treatment.

“This is a lot higher than in the general population,” he said.

Ophthalmologist and chair of Glaucoma UK, Professor Anthony King, also delivered a session, highlighting to practitioners both the challenges and prospects for glaucoma care.

During the conference Specsavers confirmed that it had renewed its partnership with Glaucoma UK.

Commenting on the conference, Specsavers’ director of professional development, Grant Duncan, said: “Specsavers is proud to organise this important event, which shares critical knowledge and learning for the benefit of patients and clinicians. It was inspiring to hear our expert presenters, with delegates taking away valuable CPD points as well.”