Supporting locum optometrists through a changing environment

Johnson & Johnson Vision’s Sheetal Patel on how the contact lens market has shifted over the past 18 months, and the company’s support for locum optometrists

The outbreak of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns had a significant impact on the eye health sector as a whole. As practices were limited in the services they could provide, and people spent more time at home, the contact lens sector felt the effects.

However, as the situation continued to change in 2021 and restrictions eased, contact lens manufacturers sought to re-engage existing contact lens wearers, and recruit new patients interested in trials, highlighting the variety of ways the vision correction option can support their lifestyles.

While the shifting environment brought changes to optometry practices, it also posed particular challenges for locum optometrists. Read more on the ways the locum workforce has responded to the challenges of the past year in OT’s article, Locum life: “Optics has bounced back in a big way.”

OT spoke to Sheetal Patel, Johnson & Johnson Vision’s professional education and development manager for the UK and Ireland, to find out more about how the contact lens market has changed, and the ways the company has sought to support locum optometrists in the past year.

How have you seen the contact lens market change over the last 18 months?

Sheetal Patel
Sheetal Patel
Sheetal Patel, Johnson & Johnson Vision’s professional education and development manager for the UK and Ireland (SP): There was a general reduction in contact lens use at the start of the pandemic due to the lack of occasions for wear, and people working from home. There has also been a lack of opportunity to do new fits during different stages of the pandemic due to a prioritisation of eye exams. However, there has been a positive use of remote consultations to allow patients to safely remain in contact lens wear.

The contact lens market overall in the UK has remained stable due to the high uptake of the subscription model, and this has helped many businesses during the last 18 months. We are definitely now starting to see a recovery as people see different needs for contact lens wear, including mask use.

Why are locum optometrists a key group that Johnson & Johnson Vision is particularly looking to support?

SP: We appreciate that locums provide a very important part of the eye care sector. As they are self-employed, they can have greater difficulty accessing up-to-date information on contact lens products, services and education that could be beneficial for patient care. We also recognise that the educational needs of locums are unique and therefore delivering education relevant for them is an important part of how we provide support.

How have you supported locum optometrists over the past 18 months?

SP: We are very happy to be able to continue to develop our partnership with the AOP in providing tailored support to locums. This partnership continues to evolve each year, allowing us to provide a diverse range of resources, tools, services and education, aiding locums to continue to deliver great patient care.

Over the last 18 months we have offered a significant number of online webinars and peer discussions as part of our partnership with the AOP, but also as Johnson & Johnson Vision through our own offerings. We also supported the development and delivery of the AOP online Locum logbook. In addition, a number of communications were also delivered specifically for locums through OT.

How will this support continue in 2022?

SP: In partnership with the AOP, we will again be delivering an annual tailored educational programme, as well as providing a printed locum supplement halfway through the year with useful information.

There will be eight events on offer next year, with some exciting new content taking us into the first year of Continued Professional Development. There is also the online Locum logbook, available only to locums, through the AOP website. 

As Johnson & Johnson Vision, we will be looking to deliver a targeted communication plan with locums to allow them to stay up-to-date with the latest contact lens information and education.