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AOP AGM 2019

The Association of Optometrists’ (AOP) AGM was held on Tuesday, 11 June, 2019, at 2 Woodbridge Street, London EC1R 0DG

29 Jul 2019 by John White

Introduction by Chairman

The Chairman, Mike George, welcomed the attendees to the AOP AGM.

Approval of the minutes of the last AGM held on 5 June 2018

The Chairman asked the members to approve the minutes of the last AGM held on 5 June 2018. The vote was carried and the Chairman signed the minutes.

Roll of deceased members

The Chairman asked the members at the meeting to stand as the Chief Executive, Henrietta Alderman, read the roll of deceased members:

  • Jeanette Andrews, Wigan
  • Francis Morton, Stockton-on-Tees
  • Philip Cole, Colchester
  • Rhona Murray, Peterborough
  • Gillian Dickie, Richmond, North Yorkshire
  • Martin-Joe Okafor, Erith
  • Frank Fox, Amherstburg, Canada
  • Dr Rakesh Parmar, Leicester
  • James Hands, Clayworth Common, Retford
  • Helen Pickford, Bangor
  • John Maginnis, Solihull
  • Sneh Shah, Exmouth
  • Joanne Marks, Manchester
  • Donald Wiseman, Devon
  • David Miranda, London. 

Report from the Chairman

Mike George said that during 2018 the political and optometry landscape remained uncertain.

He highlighted that Brexit had coloured the Government’s timetable, the commissioning of optometry services continued to change, technology became evermore present, and the General Optical Council (GOC) had uncertain plans for the 2019 CET cycle. All these required the AOP to be agile and responsive, he said.

Mr George said that 2018 had been another successful year for the Association, and services had been expanded to help members deliver excellent eye care.

He said that membership numbers had increased for a sixth consecutive year with the retention rate remaining at 98%. Insurance remained the central service to members and the greatest cost to the business. Membership fees had increased by £10 because of rising insurance premiums and costs were managed across all departments to ensure efficiencies were made, he explained.

Mr George outlined that during 2018 the AOP Legal Directorate was restructured to clarify the workstreams in the areas of negligence, professional discipline, employment, and clinical and regulatory support. The effective delivery of legal services remained central to the success of the Association. The Insurance Oversight Group, a sub-group of the Board, had also been restructured, with additional members and terms of responsibility to manage risk and ensure all appropriate governance steps had been taken.

In addition to ensuring that members managed risk appropriately through the Legal and Clinical teams’ guidance and seminars, Mr George said that the amount of continuous education that was delivered through 100% Optical, country-wide events and through technology, significantly increased during the year. Useful guides had been produced in areas such as the Locum Logbook, OT and social media channels, and these remained the cornerstone for education and communication with the membership.

He said that educating the public and decision-makers had taken the form of campaigns such as Don’t Swerve a Sight Test and A B See for children. These incorporated members’ views through the Voice of Optometry survey, reinforced by strong policy positions to lobby decision-makers.

Mr George said that in 2018 the AOP strategic plan for the coming three years centred around three pillars: policy and promotion, membership services and sustainability, against which all annual objectives were set.

He highlighted that there had been continuous interactions with the GOC, who had endeavoured to move some of the backlog of the fitness to practise cases.

Consultations had been held with the Education Review, business standards being the most significant. The Policy Committee drove this activity and ensured that the AOP’s position as the lead organisation in this sector was maintained.

Mr George thanked those members who completed surveys to state their views on the forum, applied for Council and Board positions, and helped with their involvement to fully represent the membership. He particularly thanked the current and outgoing Councillors for their support during the year.

Mr George said he was honoured to serve for a third and final year, following which Dr Julie-Anne Little would take up the position of Chairman.

To receive a report from the Chairman of Finance and approve the Annual Report and accounts

The Chairman invited the Chairman of Finance, Mike Fegan, to present the Annual Report and accounts for the year ended 31 December, 2018.

In his summary, Mr Fegan reviewed the overall results of the AOP, and covered the medical malpractice insurance, and membership subscriptions.

He said that the balance sheet showed a balance of £5.6m. Available reserves were less than this after payment of the mortgage. The reserves policy required a minimum of £3.0m, including three months of operating costs, and this target had yet to be reached, he said.

Mr Fegan reported that direct professional services had risen from £3,199,346 to £3,713,363, an increase of £514,000 in the year, most of which was the insurance premium increase. To cover a part of this increase, subscriptions had increased by £10 in 2018, and together with the increase in the number of members, this meant that income had gone up. This situation had happened again this year, resulting in a further increase in subscriptions by £10, but the objective was to have a surplus of at least £100,000. He added that the mortgage would end in August 2020.

Mr Fegan stated that the auditors, BDO, had concluded that the accounts showed a true and accurate record of the AOP's finances.

In questions following Mr Fegan’s statement, AOP Councillor Susan Bowers asked if the membership and legal cases were increasing by the same percentage. Mr Fegan said that the number of cases appeared to be stable year on year, but members required more support from the Legal team in an increasingly litigious world.

Ms Bowers asked if the AOP membership fee would come down once the mortgage was paid off. Mr Fegan said that the insurance premiums would still have to be covered, and these were rising.

AOP Councillor Martin Sweeney asked if the Legal team was seeing problem cases in MECS or red eye clinics. The Chairman of Finance said that the main issues came from retinal detachments and keratoconus. Mr Sweeney suggested speaking to corporate employers on the increasing insurance premiums to see if it was possible to work with them to keep these under better control. Henrietta Alderman said that it was something that was kept in mind.

AOP Councillor Alison McClune asked whether a stage would be reached with the increasing insurance premium where it would be better for the AOP to pay more of the insurance cover. Mr Fegan said it was a difficult balance to achieve, but this was kept under constant review.

AOP Councillor Jonathan Jackson asked if the membership fee would be kept the same for those with IP qualifications. Mr George said that there was no increased risk in terms of the cases coming through, and that it was likely that having more qualifications led to better training to manage risks.

Mr George paid tribute to Mr Fegan for his work as Chairman of Finance.

To approve the proposal of the Board to re-appoint BDO LLP as the Association’s auditors

Mr Fegan, on behalf of the Board, moved that BDO LLP be re-appointed as the Association’s auditors. The vote was seconded and carried.

Any other business

There was no other business and the AGM was closed by the Chairman.

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