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Spires of hope

AOP chief executive, Henrietta Alderman, on the need to take time to consider the impact of the pandemic on the profession

Salisbury Cathedral spires
Getty/Vivvi Smak

On 23 March, the country solemnly marked a year on from the first nationwide lockdown. People took to their doorsteps, this time with candles and torches, to offer a quietly moving vigil for all those who have died during the pandemic.

Businesses across the country are responding to the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, while remaining mindful of the Government’s watchwords: ‘We are led by the data not dates.’

For our profession, the lights have for the most part stayed on so that the public can continue to receive the eye care they need. This could only be achieved with the dedication of optometrists.

Understanding the impact of the pandemic on the profession will take time and careful consideration. For optometry students and pre-registration optometrists, whose careers are at their most formative stage, the disruption has been profound. In OT’s April/May edition, we find out first-hand what challenges lie ahead for this ‘COVID-Generation’ – and consider why this cohort will be the most resilient and enterprising yet.

Asking the big questions about the future of optics beyond the pandemic will be key – and the AOP’s policy team are at work on a new long-term plan to crystalise what this future should and can look like.

As a front-line primary care service, perceptions of optometry will have evolved both in the mind of the public, and also within secondary care – creating a platform for change. Extended services such as CUES have also changed the landscape, but more discussion about the commissioning of services and the infrastructure to support it is needed. The importance of finance remains front and centre, and we know from members that the financial pressures of the pandemic have led to new conversations about delivering eye care using more sustainable business models.

Meeting the milestone of vaccinating 30 million people (me included, in Salisbury Cathedral) points to a future where COVID-19 does not start and end every conversation. I write in hope.