AOP Awards

Practice of the Year finalists

AOP Awards 2020 Practice of the Year finalists speak to OT 

AOP Awards 2020 background

OT profiles the Practice of the Year finalists in the AOP Awards 2020, speaking to them about what makes their practices stand out from the crowd.

Central Vision Opticians

Optometrist and director Bhavin Shah

  • Established: 2009
  • Location: Finchley, North London
  • Number of staff: Five.
Bhavin Shah
Optometrist and director of Central Vision Opticians, Bhavin Shah

Can you describe the practice in a sentence?

We focus on vision for life by being an innovative vision and sight centre driven by understanding and serving the unique needs of our patients and clients.

How does the practice stand out from the crowd?

We believe in being patient and innovation-led. We’re delighted that our patient experience and Net Promoter Scores are consistently over 9.5.

We also offer non-traditional pioneering services such as behavioural optometry and myopia control.

Eyewear styling and fashion events have proven to be a great way of better understanding our patients’ personal and visual needs. We believe everyone is different so we tailor our services as such. Our patient base age ranges from three months to 100 years and being able to make a real impact across the spectrum brings us genuine passion and joy.

Our network and connections with a range of non-optical professionals helps us to deliver a truly distinctive multi-disciplinary service to our patients and our community.

How does the practice effectively educate patients about the importance of eye health?

People have different communication and education preferences, so we use a multimedia and omnichannel approach to help them understand the importance of eye health. Our website is updated with fresh content based on the questions our patients ask us so that everyone can benefit from our advice and expertise. We use social media including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram to share the latest information about eye health, our practice offering and other information. We also send out helpful information to our patients through regular emails and newsletters.

Of course, at every visit to our practice all of our staff re-iterate the importance of eye health. Prevention is better than cure. We educate the younger generation by speaking at schools to help children understand the importance of healthy eye habits. We also speak with elderly groups and explain in an easy to understand way.

What does clinical excellence mean to the practice?

Clinical excellence means delivering expert eye-related services to a diverse customer base to meet the unique needs of each of our patients. We do this by staying on top of the latest research and technology and being recognised as a leader in this field. We believe in not only contributing to thought leadership but practically bringing new techniques and methods to practice and helping to improve these for all. For example, we were one of the first practices in the UK to start measuring eyeball length as a way of better understanding myopia progression and risks of potential sight loss as a result of eyeball elongation. We’re also collaborating with a start-up to develop a revolutionary new visual field screening technology.

What are the practice’s three best attributes?

  • Patient-driven and lead, focusing on continuous challenge and improvement, and being a true leader and expert in the field
  • Patients are at the heart of the services we deliver and how we deliver them. We listen to what is important to them and incorporate this into our service delivery
  • We never rest on our laurels and are inquisitive and curious. We bring these qualities to work each day.

Davies & Jones Optometrists

Director and optometrist Andrew Hobby

  • Established: 1984
  • Location: Talbot Green
  • Number of staff: 10.
Davies and Jones team
The practice team at Davies & Jones Optometrists

Can you describe the practice in a sentence?

Davies & Jones Optometrists’ Talbot Green branch is like Doctor Who’s Tardis; Full of impressive instruments and scientific wonders, it takes its visitors on incredible journeys and regenerates at regular intervals.

How does the practice standout from the crowd?

The practice stands out from the crowd by leading, rather than following trends, be that in the consulting room, the screening suite equipment or the dispensing area.

How does the practice effectively educate patients about the importance of eye health?

The practice has a proactive approach to patient education. Frequent staff training sessions in-house, AOP and College of Optometrists information sheets, easy to follow videos on reception TVs and social media posts all play a part.

What does clinical excellence mean to the practice?

Clinical excellence means providing evidence-based eye care to all our patients. All options are explained and a decision on how to proceed is only made once they are content and have played a full part.

What are the practice’s three best attributes?

Fear, surprise and ruthless efficiency – sorry, that’s the weaponry of Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition.

  • Our staff
  • A willingness to constantly evolve
  • A sense of humour and an almost fanatical devotion to optometry...and nice black uniforms.

Derby Specsavers

Retail director Uan Gohil

  • Established: 1989 and co-directed by father and son, Raj and Uan Gohil
  • Location: Derby
  • Number of staff: 100.

Specsavers Derby team
The practice team at Specsavers Derby

Can you describe the practice in a sentence?

We are a passionate professional team, working with hospital-quality technology and dedicated to making a positive difference for our customers.

How does the practice standout from the crowd?

We’re committed to helping people feel good through the products and services we offer. We’re in touch with our customers and our community. For example, this year we invited a local boy who was bullied at school to come to the store for a free eye test and designer glasses.

Our strong social purpose knits our team together and helps us to provide excellent service for our customers. We support local children’s charities as well as Guide Dogs and the Royal National Institute for Blind People for whom we’ve raised thousands over the years. Our energy and passion for excellence shines through all we do and we support our team to gain further qualifications and progress in their careers.

How does the practice effectively educate patients about the importance of eye health?

As well as holding regular information events, particularly around contact lens care, we focus on awareness days for eye conditions and other related problems, like diabetes and brain tumour awareness. We talk in more detail about different eye conditions in store, while explaining the benefits of regular testing.

The team at Derby Specsavers is also trained to help customers who suffer from minor eye conditions, offering an alternative to GP visits. Derby Specsavers recently became a Healthy Living Optical Practice; we’re now able to offer support for a number of health issues and signpost patients to further help.

What does clinical excellence mean to the practice?

Clinical excellence is a critical part of our offer to customers. We’re recognised by Specsavers as a centre for excellence because of our highly-skilled team, but it’s not only about our skills. We’re proud to have access to hospital quality eye testing equipment including OCT, which allows us to monitor our customers’ eye health in great detail. Our optometrists are passionate about thorough testing. This year we identified a tiny retinal tear in an asymptomatic customer in his 30s.

Identifying the problem early on meant the customer could be treated before any noticeable sight was lost.

What are the practice’s three best attributes?

  • We have a highly-skilled, friendly and professional team
  • We care very much about the community we’re a part of and we’re committed to giving back where we can
  • We have a track record for clinical excellence and outstanding customer service.

Shrewsbury Optometry

Optometrist and co-owner Gareth Hardcastle

  • Established: 1937 by Guy Darlington. It has only had two owners since the practice was established, Michael and Helen Calver and now Jenny and Gareth Hardcastle
  • Location: Shrewsbury
  • Number of staff: 12, including four optometrists, a practice manager, two dispensing staff and five receptionists.

Shrewsbury Opticians team
The practice team at Shrewsbury Optometry

Can you describe the practice in a sentence?

A practice that, at its heart, focuses on high-quality clinical care with heavy investment in technology, married with high-end frames not found in the average High Street opticians.

How does the practice standout from the crowd?

One of the main differentiating aspects of the practice is that we don’t look like an opticians. We have created our practice environment to feel very different. We don’t have the traditional shop floor with wall to wall frames on display. Instead, we have opted for a private dispensing area with a high emphasis on optometrist-led recommendation and handovers in the consulting rooms. We dedicate up to an hour for our NHS enhanced service examinations to include Optomap and our patients value the clinical time spent with them. We have a 90% uptake on this enhanced examination.

How does the practice effectively educate patients about the importance of eye health?

As well as attending schools and doing talks to various groups locally, we produce a quarterly practice newsletter, which is all done in-house and gives us an excellent platform to educate our patients about eye health matters, as well as practice services.

What does clinical excellence mean to the practice?

For me the biggest factor is utilising the technology available. Technology such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) and Optomap not only allows a level of examination far beyond the standard, but more than anything allows a far better way of reassuring our patients that their eyes are healthy. Without utilising this technology, I truly believe we are not doing our best for our patients. No matter how good the optometrist, this technology will detect pathology that otherwise would be missed.

What are the practice’s three best attributes?

  • Technology at the forefront of the eye examination
  • Truly unique eyewear that won’t be found elsewhere on the High Street
  • Genuine passion for developing the profession and patient care.

Torquay Willows Specsavers

Store director Simon Simmonds

  • Established: March 2018
  • Location: Torquay, Devon
  • Number of staff: 10.
Specsavers Torquay Willows
Specsavers Torquay Willows

Can you describe the practice in a sentence?
As one of the pioneering Specsavers practices based within Sainsbury’s, we have delivered one of the most technological advanced stores in the UK.

How does the practice standout from the crowd?

Small is beautiful. Despite being just 857sq ft in size, we pack a powerful punch. We have a three-test-room store, which delivers medium store size performance. We do this not only with a state-of-the-art concept using iPad and digital technology to run the store, but through our passion. Within a Sainsbury’s supermarket environment, we have a huge market to interact with and we are able to take the message to the people. We invest heavily in marketing and activities both in and around the store to keep our profile high in the community.

How does the practice effectively educate patients about the importance of eye health?

Each person we interact with is offered OCT and explained the virtues of vision and wearing glasses and contact lenses. We take the philosophy of very much being a healthcare provider and educator of eye health and use leaflets on a range of conditions such as presbyopia, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma to do this. We have been into schools this last year talking to sixth form students about optometry. We have also been engaging with science, technology, engineering and mathematics students and organised an open day at the University of Plymouth’s optometry department for them to see what it would be like as a course.

We have promoted eye health with over 20 pieces of media coverage through Glaucoma Week, Road Safety Week and World Sight Day. We have run a health and wellbeing day in the Sainsbury’s café too. We had the RNIB bring its eye pod, and we helped the public simulate eye conditions and raise awareness of the importance of eye tests. We’ve worked with GP’s to promote the concept of enhanced optical services and their understanding of the changing landscape of general ophthalmic services.

What does clinical excellence mean to the practice?

We believe a business is only as good as the people in it. My vision as director has always been to run the practice as a small, family run business. We aim to create a fantastic environment in which people would want to work for us. This also reflects in the care given to our customers.

We have to try and exceed our customers’ expectations. We strive to treat people as they would like to be treated and to reassure each individual that we tailor their visit to meet their needs. This has been further supported with the precision eye care provided by iPad technology that allows all the patient measurements to be taken, and immediately illustrates lens choices and lens cosmetics at a touch of a button. Nothing is too much trouble; we even hand-deliver prescriptions to our customer’s homes.

Our patients benefit from one-to-one handovers, along with the convenience of being able to browse and purchase whenever it is convenient to them. Many patients have not had the one-to-one experience before. When you couple that level of shop floor detail, with the clinical optometrists being able to provide enhanced optical services, OCT imagery and digital refraction, you have a recipe for success.

What are the practice’s three best attributes?

  • Convenience
  • Efficiency
  • Expertise.

The AOP Awards 2020, which is headline sponsored by CopperVision, takes place on 26 January at ExCeL London. Voting is open until 5pm on 18 December. Visit the AOP website for more information and to vote.