New year, new plan

The AOP sets course towards the profession’s challenges ahead at the first Council meeting of the year

AOP Councillors were on hand to provide the wisdom to know the difference between the profession’s challenges that can and cannot be changed, in the Council meeting on 2 March.

The proceedings started by noting on posters the Councillors’ thoughts on potential future threats to the profession. Councillors were then handed coloured dots: green for threats that could be influenced or prevented by the AOP, red for threats that could not be averted, and yellow for un-avertable threats that the AOP could provide member support for.

The threats of deregulation of optics and protected functions were almost unanimously stickered as ‘green’ issues, while Councillors considered inflation, the minimum wage rise and maternity and paternity leave to be ‘red’ issues. Overall, working model uncertainties and NHS funding and tendering were the ‘yellow’ issues for the AOP to provide guidance on.

In the feedback section, Councillors noted that almost every threat should be considered a ‘yellow’ issue, but that work must be prioritised within limited resources.

One Councillor stressed: “You have to pick your battles. You can’t fight them all.”

The AOP policy team noted it that would come back to Council with a rough plan of further work and research, based on the Councillors’ insight.

"You have to pick your battles. You can't fight them all"

Dropping a lens

General Optical Council (GOC) strategy director, Alistair Bridge, presented the results of the regulator’s recent contact lens-wearer market research. One key finding was the projected rise of online contact lens sales, he said. The research also found a lower proportion of online shoppers believed they had a copy of their spectacles prescription or contact lens specification, or had received aftercare advice.

Councillors raised a number of issues, from the tendency for patients to forget they had been issued a copy of a prescription or specification, to the habit of people to give unrealistic answers in self-reporting surveys.

The skyrocketing popularity of zero-power lenses was also discussed, with the possibility of local optical committees (LOCs) addressing illegal sales in their areas floated. Councillors also called on the GOC to do more to target suppliers and online retailers like Amazon.

Ramping up

LOC Support Unit (LOCSU) managing director, Katrina Venerus, presented the organisation’s new strategy, launched in February alongside a proposed levy rise. The aim was to see all LOCSU pathways commissioned in all areas, she explained.

The Councillors were supportive of the move, though with a number of trusts and hospitals reluctant to admit they had service delivery problems, more resources were requested to convince clinical commissioning groups of the benefits of the pathways. Targeting commissioners who had already given dental and dermatology services to the community was also suggested.

Picking up the pieces

The Council was updated on the February House of Lords debate on adjustable-focus eyewear, with the misunderstanding the GOC’s role as a public safety regulator by House of Lords members highlighted as a concern. Stronger lobbying by the Optical Confederation when such issues arose was also suggested.

Another Councillor said astigmatism, as it could not be corrected by adjustable focus lens, needed to be a part of the debate.

At the bottom of the agenda, feedback on the position papers on independent prescribing, pre-registration and community eye health services was sought. New topics for position papers were requested, with support shown for a paper on the potential impact of Brexit on optics.

During the meeting, College of Optometrists research director, Mike Bowen, also presented the results of the organisation’s Optical Workforce Survey.

The next meeting of the Council will be held on 8 June, following the AOP’s 7 June annual general meeting.


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