The tipping point

With new technology and online sales models, along with a more joined-up approach to delivering eye care, the need for optical businesses to be adaptable in changing times is key, writes Henrietta Alderman

Henrietta Alderman

It is hard to know where to begin when discussing challenges facing the profession. They are many and varied, but not without opportunities in the mix too.

On a professional level, the opportunities continue to open as optometry pushes the boundaries with community services and step down care to relieve pressures on hospitals and give patients the best care close to home. But for optometry to be truly embedded as part of the NHS requires energy, tenacity, IT connectivity and collaboration within the sector and with other primary care providers.

There is competition in the market, but the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) leads the strategy for delivery and participation by all and the AOP strongly encourages members to engage in their local areas. Manchester provides a model for a joined-up sector approach within a significant regional boundary. Nationally commissioned schemes are being pushed at every opportunity, but it seems that the bottom-up approach is the one most likely to achieve a result.

The tipping point for most businesses has not yet been reached whereby clinical expertise does not need to be subsidised from sales. But with technology, online sales and changing delivery models, the focus for all businesses on their own unique selling point and forward planning has never been more important.

"The AOP Peer Support Line sits alongside other resources for members to assist with keeping resilient in times of change"

No one is burying their heads in the sand, as was shown in our health and wellbeing survey. Nearly 80% of respondents expected the role of optometrists to change significantly over the next five years. The challenges that come with that affect everyone differently, with 28% of respondents being optimistic about the future of the profession while 37% felt pessimistic and 53% stated that concerns over the future of the profession had at least some effect on their wellbeing.

The AOP Peer Support Line sits alongside other resources for members to assist with keeping resilient in times of change.

Education is a major challenge for the sector in terms of competencies required for the future, how undergraduate education should be developed and the number of optometrists needed. This is a major focus for the AOP. As the largest provider of CET in the sector, we are committed to meeting the varying needs of our members, both through this journal and through our CET programme. Aligned to this is the review of the range of medicines that can be sold, supplied or administered by optometrists. Trevor Warburton is leading on the project for the AOP and is working with clinical colleagues across the sector to achieve change.

For all our members, whether seeking professional, personal, or business advice, the AOP is here for you in challenging times. Please make the most of your membership.

Health and Wellbeing survey

The AOP’s results are available online