How I serve my community

“Care and community is one of our key business values”

Optometrist and clinical director of Urquhart Opticians, Alistair Duff, shares how the practice group supports its local community in Ayrshire, Scotland

Sponsored cycle
As the clinical director at Urquhart Opticians, part of Hakim Group, Alistair Duff manages a large team of optometrists, looking after clinical services, inputting into training programmes and overseeing high standards of comprehensive eye care for patients.

Alongside his business partner, Peter Telfer, Duff has owned the business for over seven years. He also works with Optometry Scotland and is Chair of the Area Optical Professional Committee.

OT spoke to Duff about the community initiatives Urquhart Opticians supports across Ayrshire, Scotland.

Can you share what Urquhart Opticians has been doing to help the community it serves?

Over the past year, community has been a great focus for us at Urquhart Opticians. We have continued our Care and Community Fund, which launched in 2021, where we give £1000 every second month of the year to charities and local community groups.

In 2022 we donated to The Brain Tumour Charity, Inspire South Ayrshire, Irvine Victoria Football Club, Above Adventure Kilmarnock, River Garden Auchincruive and the Council of Voluntary Organisations, East Ayrshire.

Alongside this, we decided to work with a charity partner, choosing the Ayrshire Hospice last year. For this partnership, we sponsored two large events with the hospice, the Burns Supper and Autumn Ball. We also held our own charity cycle where we raised a further £3500 for the hospice.

Our practice team spent time working with local schools through Developing the Young Workforce Ayrshire, a Scottish Government initiative aiming to reduce youth unemployment and encourage better connectivity between education and the world of work. Our optometrist, Amy Strang, attended a local secondary school’s careers fair to speak to pupils about a career in the optics industry, and myself and one of our practice directors, Neil Gray, took part in a local primary school’s Health Week 2022 where we gave presentations on vision, eye health, spectacles and contact lenses.

Supporting the community is embedded into Urquhart Opticians’ practice values. Can you share why this is important to you?

Alistair community work
Alistair Duff visiting a local school
‘Care and community’ is one of our key business values. This is crucial to Peter Telfer and I, and to all the wider team. Urquhart Opticians was founded in 1916 and has always had a strong connection to the local community. As we have grown the business, we remain in market and coastal towns, and we see very active communities in these areas. It’s so important for us to be a part of this; we know we wouldn’t be able to do what we do or to have grown as we have in the past few years without the support from our local communities.

What inspired Urquhart Opticians to start supporting charitable organisations and help others in the community?

While we have always supported local initiatives, we wanted to make a larger commitment. Having a charity partner allows us to support in different ways throughout the year. The Ayrshire Hospice has a profound impact on so many people’s lives. It felt like the right choice to support them further.

We were motivated to create our Care and Community Fund after lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions. A lot of charities and local groups were struggling, and we were looking for new ways to support people under the circumstances. The Fund has been a huge hit with our communities, and we continue to receive numerous applications every month.

Urquhart Opticians was founded in 1916 and has always had a strong connection to the local community. As we have grown the business, we remain in market and coastal towns, and we see very active communities in these areas. It’s so important for us to be a part of this


With multiple practices across Scotland, do any of the community projects or charitable events bring together individual practices?

The Care and Community Fund means a lot to the team. We have them involved in as many ways as we can. Everyone reads the applications, and all have a say in where funding is awarded. Members of the team visit the charity or group as part of our cheque presentation, meaning they get to learn more about the charity and feel how appreciated the funding is.

Is there a project or event that you’re proud to say you were a part of?

The thing I’m most proud of is our charity cycle, which we completed in May last year. Alongside Peter, team members and some family and friends, we cycled 100 miles between all our practices, starting at West Kilbride and ending in Stranraer. It took a lot of time coordinating the route and organising each stop. I documented our progress through vlogs and we ran a JustGiving page for people to donate to, raising over £3500 for the Ayrshire Hospice.

Do you have any advice for optometrists or business owners who want to start supporting the community they serve?

My advice to anyone looking to become involved in their community would be for optometrists and the front of house team to speak to patients about the community. Often, people will mention to me in the test room that they are part of a local group. This is an easy lead, to offer your time to speak at events, visit community groups and schools, especially within the target market of your practice.

What charitable goals or aspirations does Urquhart Opticians have for the future?

This year we will continue to run our Care and Community Fund. We have committed to being the principal sponsor of the Autumn Ball in partnership with the Ayrshire Hospice again. We are currently working with our team to decide who will be our charity partner this year, while we have ongoing sponsorships with a few local community groups already in progress.