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The CEO's view

“We have to take it seriously as a separate and critical discipline”

AOP chief executive, Adam Sampson, discusses the importance of training and supervision for staff

people in waiting room
Getty/Anna Minkina

The other day, like many others over the past 18 months, I spent an unhappy hour desperately trying to get an appointment at my local GP practice. Having been turned away from the practice door by a determined – and frankly rather scary-looking – receptionist, I then had to negotiate the online booking system and, when this failed, convince that very same receptionist (this time over the phone) to let me in to see the doctor. All for the sake of ensuring that the prescription which I had been receiving for the past year was rolled over for another month. Not a dramatic story, but one which is depressingly familiar I’m sure.

As this edition discusses, as patients we are increasingly at the mercy of the guardians of the triage systems that have been put in place. That is for very good reasons: in principle, triage systems help providers schedule their work effectively and sort the urgent from the merely demanding. However, such systems carry with them some patient risk: those who for whatever reason cannot make a good enough case can find themselves denied the care they need.

I am not arguing that triage is wrong. But if we are going to rely on triage at this early critical stage in the patient process, we have to take it seriously as a separate and critical discipline. Staff need to be repeatedly and regularly trained and supervised in their new role. And systems and processes need to be put in place to ensure that the judgements they are making are properly evidence-based and documented.

Systems and processes need to be put in place to ensure that the judgements they are making are properly evidence-based and documented

 

Plus, if staff are to be undertaking the role and responsibilities associated with triage, it seems reasonable that their work needs to come within the General Optical Council’s framework of regulation. This should be done, not by introducing a whole new grade of staff, but simply by extending regulation to the whole of the optical business, rather than just some of the individuals working for it. That is the route that other professions, such as law, have gone down, and that is the solution which the AOP recently called for in our response to the Government’s consultation on changes to regulation in the sector.

At the AOP, we frequently respond to consultations such as that from the Government, regulators and healthcare bodies in order to highlight the views of our members and influence new policy and guidance impacting the sector. Consultations like this – and expect more in the months to come – at first glance can seem abstract and far-removed from daily practice, but our responses to Government and regulators highlight the views and experiences of our members and influence new policy and guidance affecting the sector. To find out about our policy work, visit our website.

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