Hospital optometrists are a growing and important proportion of our total membership. Many of their needs as members are the same as those of our members in community practice: CET, legal advice and support in the event of FTP cases, news and information about the future of the profession, and promotion of optometry to NHS audiences, politicians and the public.
But there are some areas of support that are unique to hospital optometrists and we know we need to publicise better what we already do and look to provide better representation to our hospital members.
Our recent member benefits survey showed very high levels of satisfaction with the AOP. But hospital optometrists were slightly less happy with us on some scores. For example, 92% of hospital optometrists said they felt protected by us, compared to 95% of the whole membership. 87% said they get the resources they need from the AOP, compared to 91% of the whole membership and 82% felt represented by us, compared to 86% overall. These figures are by no means bad, but we take no member for granted and we want hospital optometrists to feel equally supported.
What are the issues that only affect hospital optometrists? Of course, these are nearly all to do with NHS terms and conditions. The CET grant is another issue, as hospital optometrists who do no General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) work do not qualify for the CET grant. This is because the grant is funded by the GOS budget, but it still feels unfair to those who don’t receive it.
A few respondents said they felt the need to be union members for some of their work issues and this gives me the opportunity to remind people that, through a contract with the BMA, we can provide union representation to all our members at work, for disciplinary meetings for example. Members concerned about an employment issue should contact our employment team in the first instance, and we will facilitate the union representation from there. This is included in your standard AOP membership fee, not at an additional charge.
“These figures are by no means bad, but we take no member for granted and we want hospital optometrists to feel equally supported”
The Hospital Optometrists Committee (HOC) carries out an important job providing opportunities to hospital optometrists to network and learn together at the annual conference, HOAC, every autumn. We know this is particularly valued by people from small departments who do not get the chance to spend much time with fellow optometrists the rest of the year. The 2019 conference will be in Belfast and we will be actively promoting the event. You don’t have to be a hospital optometrist to attend the conference, and many people who are aspiring to IP qualification will find it a very valuable experience.
To ensure that the AOP learns from the experience of hospital optometry and uses that knowledge in the interests of all its members, we are developing stronger links between the HOC and our policy team. We want the hospital optometry view to be reflected in our responses to the GOC Education Strategic Review, for example. We expect the relationship to strengthen further over the next few months. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.
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