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Q&A: AOP policy manifesto

Past AOP chair, Kevin Thompson, shares his thoughts on a short and accessible summary of AOP policy

12 Jun 2019 by Selina Powell

Kevin Thompson approached the AOP with an idea for a concise summary of the AOP’s position on key issues. The former AOP chair discusses his views on the completed ‘back-to-basics’ manifesto with OT

What is the purpose of the AOP policy manifesto?

The purpose of the manifesto is to bring together the key points from AOP position statements and other policy work. The aim is to provide members with a short and accessible summary of our current policy ‘asks.’ It will be included in future member communications and published on the website. It will be regularly reviewed to check that it remains current.

Why did you think a manifesto would be a good idea?

Since joining AOP Council 12 years ago, I have spoken to many colleagues about the AOP and what it does for the profession. It is a fact that we represent 82% of the profession as members and our strength is in our diversity of views and experience. However, ultimately we need to distil those views to create policy that informs not just our members but a much wider audience. Our policy committee and team go to great lengths to create position statements on various areas of interest. However, as we live in a world of soundbites, it seemed a good idea to try to give everyone a flavour of what is current and what we want to do about it in a very short set of headlines.

“This is very much a back-to-basics document. We can sometimes forget that members wish for simple things like more money, better conditions, more recognition and respect as healthcare professionals and I hope the manifesto reflects this”

How have you been involved?

My involvement has simply been about expressing views over the years about things that affect us as professionals, but also looking for solutions that are achievable. Modern day politics seems to be based so much on promoting a bunch of emotive goals that are impossible to implement. AOP does not work like that. Yes, we need to listen to our members’ concerns, but we then need to look at what is achievable in the context of where we are as a profession and who all the other ‘players’ are. Then we need to formulate campaigns and sometimes slightly different messages depending on who these campaigns are aimed at. The difficulty is that things can become so complex that I worry that members can't see where we are going – if you excuse the pun – so I suggested that it may help to create something that simply reflected our members’ key concerns to help inform everyone.

What do you think of the completed document?

This is very much a back-to-basics document. We can sometimes forget that members wish for simple things like more money, better conditions, more recognition and respect as healthcare professionals and I hope the manifesto reflects this. I think it is a very good snap-shot of the key items of interest that AOP is representing members on at the moment, however it will never be complete. It should change as our working landscape changes and I hope that it will give more members insight into what we are up to and indeed encourage them to perhaps read in more detail and even express a view on the current policies and position statements that we are promoting to others.

“If we can achieve progress towards any of the points made within the manifesto, then we will be benefitting our members in some way or form”

How do you think the manifesto will benefit optometrists going forward?

If we can achieve progress towards any of the points made within the manifesto, then we will be benefitting our members in some way or form. However, it is the role of AOP to represent members’ views and we must be sure that these are correct, so I also hope that it will evoke some response from the wider membership to help inform us either way.

We have several ways of seeking views from our members via the online community forums, Voice of Optometry surveys and OT and I am sometimes disappointed in the lack of feedback we get on contentious items. I want members to know exactly what direction AOP is travelling in and what it is trying to realistically achieve. I want members to understand how easy it is to express a view and for them to know that they are being listened to and I encourage them to participate in the debate that will almost always have some effect on their working lives.

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    andrewthornton9@sky.com

    Kevins comments are the best I have heard come out from the AOP in a long time.
    However there is still a gap as the manifesto talks of the unachievable that "NHS sight test fees must be significantly increased in England and Wales" yet the "back to basics" is we wish (need) for more money. Why do our professional bodies always assume it has and can only be the NHS that can pay?

    Many independents are already trying to educate their patients using EyePlan type schemes that eye health has a financial cost. Nationally we need help educating more patients to understand this. When TV companies bemoan the cost of spectacles lets be honest and agree with them but explain this cost is subsidising the NHS and we also are not happy with this system.
    Patients are often shocked and supportive once we tell them none of our building, equipment or staff costs are paid by the NHS, the GOS fee at best just pays for the optometrists salary!

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