Before forecasting what the coming year might bring, it is always good to reflect on the year that has passed. Was our direction of travel right? Did we recognise the big issues and move them forward? Were there any unforeseen and unexpected elements in the mix?
Within the pages of OT and outside, we have discussed the potential future impact of technology on optometry. We recognise that, over the next 10 years, the role of the optometrist is likely to be increasingly clinical. This has begun through MECS accreditation and increasing clinical skills.
Optometry needs to be embedded within NHS England’s plans for the delivery of the Five Year Forward View of primary care services within the community. Scotland and Wales are well ahead on clinical delivery and in some areas are pushing the clinical envelope further still. In England we are committed to supporting LOCSU’s Breakthrough Strategy.
The AOP’s role is to support its members whatever their aspirations. However, it is not completely clear what the appetite is to deliver to core competencies, or to take an increased clinical role. I hope that you all took the opportunity to answer our recent health and wellbeing survey, which included a section on clinical aspirations. It will help us to speak on behalf of the profession about your ambitions and concerns.
"Optometry needs to be embedded within NHS England's plans for the delivery of the Five Year Forward View of primary care services within the community"
What wasn’t clearly articulated at the start of the year was the Government’s desire to again consider the regulation of professions, nor the GOC’s intention to lift the proposed Education Review up its strategic agenda. Both of these topics will be key in 2017. The AOP needs to be clear on its position – both on the wider topic of professional regulation, but also on the specifics within the Opticians Act.
This is closely linked to the Education Review and how both undergraduate and post-qualification education might need to be adapted to make sure that optometrists are prepared for what could be a more clinical and competency- based educational framework. This will dominate our policy and Council agenda.
From an AOP support perspective, we will enter 2017 offering a new Parental Leave grade of membership – enabling parents on maternity, paternity or adoption leave to freeze their membership fees for up to 12 months.
In appreciation of membership loyalty, we will no longer charge for run-off payment from those retiring, ceasing to practice or leaving the profession. For our increasing number of locum members, we will develop specific support.
However, one of our largest projects for 2017 will be the launch of a confidential peer-to-peer, wellbeing support service, which has been designed to help all AOP members in times of stress and need.
Externally, in addition to ensuring that the AOP has a leading role in the development of the key issues facing the profession, we will also be developing both the public-facing profile for optometry and our stakeholder engagement. Look out for the launch of an exciting new project to aid that work in February.
The AOP Board has reviewed and polished our strategic plan, which continues to have the three pillars of policy and politics, member services and financial management. 2017 will be a busy and possibly a defining year for the profession – the AOP will ensure that your interests are at the fore.