All change, please

As a reboot takes place in the sector, optical practices will need to be agile to react to change, and challenge their own thinking to ensure that they are not being left behind, writes Henrietta Alderman

Henrietta Alderman

We are seeing considerable consolidation and change in the optical sector. The merger of Luxottica and Essilor will affect independents and corporates alike. Vision Express has increased its reach through its acquisition of Tesco Opticians. We wait to see how the Sainsbury’s buyout of Asda impacts on the optical practices that currently exist within both entities. There is also a new market entry, with M&S piloting in-store opticians in five locations.

The theme of consolidation is not unique to the corporate sector. There is similar activity amongst independents. The Hakim Group now has over 100 practices in partnership, and several small to medium sized independent practices are merging to form larger independent groups. Recently, we have seen Duncan & Todd successfully partner with investors to increase its geographical footprint and introduce audiology to its portfolio.

There is no doubt that a shake-up is happening in which the fittest will survive. Optical practices need to be agile to react to change and challenge their own thinking to ensure that they are not being left behind.

"Our Optometrists’ Futures survey has taught us a lot about the career and the personal motivations of our members and equips us to support them at all stages in their careers"

Understanding motivations 

The AOP independent practitioners event, held on the 4 July, brought a combination of thinking from inside and outside the sector to assist independent practices to consider options for the future. Look out for OT’s report in the September edition. 

The independent practitioners’ guide to starting your own practice, being produced by the AOP, also benefited from input and case studies from building a successful practice discussed by delegates during the day. 

Consolidation is also happening at speed within commissioning and delivery of enhanced services, with the emergence of a Primary Eyecare Company (PEC) covering the majority of England. This is in response to new financial thresholds requested by commissioners and will put the PEC in an advantageous position to win contracts for regional delivery.

It doesn’t stop there. The General Optical Council’s (GOC) is adding significant change into the mix with its potential shake-up of undergraduate and post graduate education. The GOC’s Education Strategic Review is a priority for our Policy Committee and Council. And our events programme has been expanded to support the final year in the CET cycle, including locum-specific events, our hospital optometry conference and London Therapeutics for those qualified or aspiring to be independent prescribers.

Alongside these changes sit the aspirations of optometrists themselves. Our Optometrists’ Futures survey has taught us a lot about the career and the personal motivations of our members and equips us to support them at all stages in their careers. 

There is still much to play for and the AOP has a pivotal role in ensuring the right decisions are taken for our optometrists of the future to thrive.

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