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Much to play for

In 2018 the AOP educated politicians about optometry, and educated itself about what members want and need in the future. There is much to be done as the Association pushes further on all the issues that matter, writes Henrietta Alderman

Sight test

Anyone in doubt about how patient management is changing should consider the changes that have been happening in the commissioning landscape in England and within the optical sector over the past year. Commissioning in other parts of the UK vary considerably, with Scotland being the most advanced in terms of national commissioning of community optical services, and England moving closer to the Welsh model.

In England, and in a very short time, the strategic power has started to move from nearly 200 Clinical Commissioning Groups to 44 Sustainable Transformation Partnerships, and now on to Integrated Care Systems. Although the legislation has not kept up with these changes, this will, in due course, affect how minor eye conditions and other services are commissioned and delivered. The aim is to put patients absolutely in the centre of care delivery – with opportunities for optometry to be integral to that care.

The optical sector’s response has been equally swift. We have scaled up the delivery mechanism through the amalgamation of ‘Primary Eyecare Companies’ so that local areas can compete for contracts. The emergence of the Primary Eyecare Services Company was inevitable, but the consolidation, under the guidance of the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU), has been at pace. The AOP, as one of the three founding members of LOCSU, has been supporting its endeavours, and welcomes its new chairman, Mike Fegan, who brings his considerable expertise to bear in this consolidation and ongoing support for the LOCs.

The aim is to put patients absolutely in the centre of care delivery – with opportunities for optometry to be integral to that care


Our theme

Aligned with the changing landscape is the need for every optometry practice to develop skills and capacity to deliver the commissioned services and manage a diverse patient caseload. The AOP has had education as its main theme this year, and the education programme is set to grow even further next year to help members meet their education, training and professional development needs. We have also been leading the profession’s influence on the General Optical Council (GOC) through our response to its consultations on CET and the future of optometry education. There is still much to play for, and the AOP is fortunate to have a well informed and thoughtful Policy Committee and Council to assist us.

As this is the last edition of the journal in 2018, it is an appropriate time to reflect on the theme of education that we set at the start of the year. Our aim was to educate ourselves about what members want and need both now and in the future. We did this through our Optometrists’ Futures and Membership Services surveys, and the education of politicians, decision makers and the public about optometry and the role of the optometrist through our public resources, media activity, and public affairs which is based on solid policy developments. We have made considerable progress, but there is much to be done as we push further and harder on all the issues that matter during 2019.

As the year ends, the AOP reconfirms that in a constantly changing world our core purpose remains unchanged: protecting, supporting and representing our members, wherever you work and in every mode of practice. 

Image credit: Getty