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AOP Annual General Meeting 2020

Annual report and accounts approved for 2019

video conferencing
Getty/ chee gin tan

The 2020 AGM of the Association of Optometrists was held virtually, via Zoom, on 4 November. The AGM had been delayed from June because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting was opened by the chairman, Mike George, who welcomed attendees to the AGM.

Mr George asked members to approve the minutes of the last AGM, held on 11 June 2019. The online vote was carried.

The chairman asked the members at the meeting to stand as the chief executive, Henrietta Alderman, read the roll of deceased members.

Roll of deceased members from May 2019 to October 2020

Mr Brian Airey, Varen
Mr Ramesh Amarnani, Wednesbury
Ms Jeanette Andrews, Wigan
Mr David Armitage, Halifax
Mr Emmanuel Ascher, Pinner
Mr Michael Atkinson, Colchester
Mr Malcolm Bailey, West Midlands
Mr Ivor Baker, Oxford
Mr Keith Bennett, Bradford
Mr Maxwell Bernard, Watford
Mr Malcolm Broad, Stoke-on-Trent
Mrs Shirley Cameron, Johnstone
Mr David Cameron-Davies, Waterlooville
Mrs Jill Cheney, Walsall
Mrs Elizabeth Coghlan, Cuckfield
Mr Stephen Cohen, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Mr Joseph Cohen-Setton, Beckenham
Mr Colin Collett, Sidcup
Mrs Valerie Collier, Tredegar
Mr Matthew Collins, Abergele
Mr Michael Cooper, Enfield
Mr Peter Critchley, Musselburgh
Mrs Jennifer Cross, Rickmansworth
Mrs Judith Cryer, Malaga
Mr Timothy Davies, Cardiff
Mr Stuart Docherty, Alexandria
Mr John Doris, Downpatrick
Mr Ronald Dyer, Bristol
Mr A Egginton, Sheffield
Mr John Ellis, Coventry
Mr Kenneth Ellis, Ferndown
Mr David Evans, Guildford
Mr Roger Farnsworth, Hove
Professor Robert Fletcher, High Wycombe
Mr Charles Frydman, London
Mr John Gardiner, Cardiff
Mr Erick Gratrix, Tetbury
Mr Robert Green, Morpeth
Mr John Gunton, Blaenau Ffestiniog
Mr Thomas Hair, Glasgow
Mr Munirali Haji, Birmingham
Mr William Holley, Coleraine
Mr Andrew Hulme, Solihull
Mr Peter Jacques, Isle of Lewis
Mrs Andrea Jenkins, Chesterfield
Mr John Keay, Goole
Mr Kenneth Kennell, London
Mr D Lockyer, Dorset
Mr C MacPherson, Aberdeen
Mr R Mallett, Brentwood
Mr Cyril Marks, Orpington
Mr John Moore, Canterbury
Mr R Morgan, Worcester Park
Mr Rashiklal Morjaria, London
Mr Vishnuthavan Naidoo, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Mr Daniel O’Hara, St Austell
Mr Frank Oldaker, Nuneaton
Mr Meurig Pari-Jones, Doncaster
Mr Malcolm Parris, Sevenoaks
Mr Jonathan Partridge, Shrewsbury
Mrs Nynisha Patel, Blackburn
Mr David Paulsen, West Sussex
Mr Roger Payne, Bath
Mrs Madeleine Pennington, Blanchland
Mrs Anna Pestell, Wokingham
Mr L Powell, Ilkley
Mr T Purce, Newtownabbey
Mrs Anne Sergeant, Forest
Mr Amil Shah, Middlesex
Mr James Smith, Leicester
Mrs Isobel Tarshis, Edgware
Mr Gordon Turner, Guildford
Mr Hyman Wexler, London
Mr John Wheeldon, Knutsford
Mrs A Wieland, Cambridge
Mr Glyn Williams, Westcliff-on-Sea
Dr G Williams, Swansea
Mr Leslie Woodhouse, Blackpool
Revd David Woods, Penzance
Mr Kenneth Worden, Chester

Report from the chairman

In his address, Mike George began by saying that much of the AOP’s activity in 2020 had been either put on hold or postponed, and noted that although his report was intended as a reflection of 2019, it was “impossible not to comment on the impact of the pandemic.”

With ‘Influence’ as the AOP’s theme for 2019, he said the Association had undertaken the development of a long-term plan to “lead the thinking on the future of both the profession and the funding for eye care.” However, he noted that this plan had been “adjusted and reprioritised in response to the pandemic.”

Mr George said that in 2019 the AOP had continued to “develop strategic links with NHS England, and discussions on commissioning and the future of funding of eye health in England were a key priority.” He said good working relationships were maintained with Optometry Northern Ireland, Optometry Scotland and Optometry Wales, to advise and support members across the devolved NHS systems.

He explained that across the UK, it was recognised that ophthalmology departments in hospitals, A&E and GP practices were overstretched. “Expanding the use by the NHS of optometrists within the primary care sector was critical. The AOP, working with sector colleagues, was determined to influence the change that was needed. COVID-19 had accelerated both the pivotal links and changes within primary care.”

Mr George said that 2019 was another strong year for the AOP throughout all areas of activity. He noted its key priority was to deliver excellent service to members, to support, represent and protect them and to develop services that were of value to them.

“The AOP’s market share of individual optometrists was unmatched, and despite increased competition, it had exceeded its stated aim of maintaining its position, ending the year with 82.3% of GOC registrants as members. Retention remained exceptionally high at 98%,” he added.

Following feedback from members, Mr George said the AOP had agreed not to have an automated response to phone calls. Internal processes were changed to achieve this, and in addition, an out-of-hours response for members had been introduced. He added that the member satisfaction survey, reviewed on a monthly basis, remained overwhelmingly positive.

Mr George highlighted that the AOP offered a holistic provision of services, at the centre of which was insurance and legal support. He noted that maintaining the high levels of member support could only be achieved by an experienced and dedicated team, adding that the number of enquiries and cases dealt with by the legal and regulatory team “continued to rise.”

The collaboration across all directorates enabled the business to have a joined-up approach to service delivery and problems as they arose, Mr George said.

He explained that the policy team had been expanded in order to “keep pace with the AOP’s growing requirements, and had worked on policy positions that had impact and could be developed into campaign materials.” He said that communication with members and Council on policy issues was a key strand of work, and that “the exceptional level of member engagement in the proposed new standard for degree level apprenticeships was a demonstration of the engagement of the members in policy that had perceived impact or interest.”

Mr George told the AGM that members wanted the Association to be “vocal in its public-facing campaigns to increase awareness of the need for good eye health and to raise the profile of optometry.” He reported that the smoking cessation campaign had had a reach of six million, and was supported by outdoor advertising campaigns.

Mr George said that the AOP’s aim is for continuous improvement in the support and services offered to members, and the education offered in 2019 to members increased in frequency, geographical coverage and content, including a specific focus on hospital optometrists and locums. He noted that OT had delivered four 16-page CPD supplements, and the Optometry Student Guide, Welcome to the Profession, for all student and pre-reg members. The education delivery also increased the delegate attendance of 3106, he said, adding the AOP and OT websites had grown with useful information, including the GOS audit tool and revised locum listing.

Mr George closed by noting the political environment “remained uncertain through much of 2019,” saying the changes in the sector and ongoing consolidation in technology and NHS England reorganisation and structural changes continued apace.

“The AOP remained vigilant to these changes in order to respond appropriately for members. The Board reviewed and updated the risk analysis at each meeting. COVID-19 dominated 2020, and the importance of protecting, supporting and representing the membership had never been more critical.”

He added that he felt confident that the AOP had risen to the challenge and continued to do so.

Mr George offered his thanks to the directors, Council and the AOP team for their dedication and ongoing support.

Report from the chairman of finance committee

In his report, the chairman of finance, Mike Fegan, drew members’ attention to the 2019 financial statements for the year ending 31 December 2019.

Noting that “COVID-19 had affected everyone,” and the hardship it had caused, he said that membership subscriptions had been reduced by 20% in 2020. The financial impact, of around £1.5 million, would be recorded in the 2020 accounts and would be a reduction in reserves. He added the AOP had been “building up its reserves over a number of years to a specific target in order to cover any eventuality. This had now happened, and the reserves held allowed the AOP to act to the benefit of the members.”

Mr Fegan also addressed the cost of the medical malpractice insurance programme, adding that the cost of the insurance programme had increased in 2020.

In his summary, Mr Fegan said the accounts for 2019 reflected a “successful year financially for the AOP, with a healthy surplus and increased reserves pre-COVID.”

Reserves increased from £6.6 million to £6.9 million, after making the required accounting adjustment for investment property, which was moving closer to the reserves target. Actual reserves at December were £6.9 million, but available reserves, excluding fixed assets, were lower at £2.3 million.

Mr Fegan noted the cashflow statement showed the total reduction in cash for the year as disclosed, £650,000, after the transfer to investments of £1 million. There was, he said, a cash inflow of £349,000 compared to £54,000 in 2018.

Mr Fegan told the AGM the “work done this year to satisfy the auditors had been made more complicated due to the pandemic,” but that the auditors agreed the financial statements were a true and fair view of the results for the year. On this basis, he said the directors had approved the accounts, and were pleased to recommend to members that they should also approve the accounts.

Mr Fegan concluded by offering his thanks to the finance director, Wendy Andrusco, and her team for the “fantastic job they had done in looking after the AOP’s finances in very trying circumstances.”

There were no questions on the financial report.

Approval of accounts

The chairman of finance moved the approval of the accounts. Members voted via poll, and the accounts were approved with one abstention.

The chairman proposed the re-appointment of BDO LLP as the AOP’s auditors. This was moved by the chairman of finance. A vote was taken by poll, and the motion was approved, with two abstentions.

There was no further business.

The chairman concluded the meeting by thanking the executive team for organising the AGM, and the members for their attendance.

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