The international political scene has changed markedly over the last couple of years, defeating the predictions of pollsters and experts.
The UK has voted to leave the EU, the US elected Donald Trump as President, while Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche movement has swept to a landslide victory in France.
Thankfully the AOP remains constant – but while we stick to the world of optics, the sector has global reach too.
Clinically, for example, we have seen a rise in the incidence of myopia, particularly in South-east Asia but also in Europe and the US. The AOP’s member-only advice on juvenile myopia control is a resource we produced in response to this situation. And, with more people living into old age across the world, many more patients will be living with long-term conditions and eye diseases that will make practice more challenging in many ways. The AOP’s resources are constantly being extended to assist members in helping and educating patients.
"Many AOP members contribute to these through charitable work overseas and we are glad to be able to extend insurance cover for these activities"
In terms of the legal and regulatory position, leaving the EU is unlikely to eliminate completely the impact of EU directives on UK businesses. For example, a business that holds data about foreign-based clients or suppliers – or that holds data on servers that are overseas – will almost certainly need to comply with international agreements on data protection, such as the new General Data Protection Regulation that comes into place in May 2018. Similarly, we will continue to be affected by European decisions on drug regulations, such as the discussion over fluorescein strips about which we produced a position paper in 2015, or about packaging and tracking drugs and medical devices.
We will track the legislation that leads towards Brexit and watch out for any consequences for our members – be it individuals or businesses – and make arguments where needed. And, after Brexit, the AOP will still monitor significant developments in Europe and make representations through its involvement with the European Council of Optometry and Optics.
Beyond Europe, there are many countries where eye diseases leave people permanently blinded, who would here receive treatment and relief. Great strides have been made through the Vision 2020 initiative of the World Health Organization and it quotes the Gambia, India, Morocco, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand as examples of countries where impressive successes have been achieved.
Many AOP members contribute to these initiatives through charitable work overseas, and we are glad to be able to extend insurance cover for these activities. Cover for volunteer work overseas is for up to four weeks per calendar year with selected charities and countries, on the condition that the AOP is informed and confirms the cover in writing at least two weeks in advance of travel. Opportunities exist and cover is available for members wishing to volunteer in countries where the ability to receive corrective vision is not easily accessed.
Global politics may continue to surprise us, but the AOP can be relied upon to continue to support and protect its members, whatever the world throws at us.
For a list of all AOP member benefits, visit the AOP website.