AOP support

AOP insight: managing risk in practice

AOP policy adviser, Kathy Jones, discusses the AOP’s practical advice for businesses and practitioners to reduce risk in practice

optical equipment
Pexels/Antoni Shkraba

What is the AOP’s Managing Risk in Practice guidance?

The AOP believes that a working environment can affect an individual optometrist’s ability to meet the highest professional standards. A lot of our guidance is focused on how individuals can meet high standards, but this advice on Managing Risk in Practice is mainly focused on the systems and procedures in the optical practice and how these can create an environment for excellence. 

It also provides practical advice on how to avoid the risks to patients that can arise in day-to-day practice. This includes risks arising from time pressures, unclear procedures, or misunderstanding of responsibilities.

The advice focuses on how practice teams can develop and implement systems to mitigate, or avoid, some of the pressures that can impact on optometrists’ time and attention, and which can in turn potentially lead to clinical mistakes.

Who is the guidance for?

The guidance is for all members, whether employers, employees or locums. The webpages include content tailored to some of the specific challenges faced by these groups, as well as advice that is beneficial for all members of the practice team.

What is included in the guidance?

The guidance is a major update to the 2016 Safe Practice in Eye Testing, which was reviewed by the AOP Policy Committee, taking into account the introduction of the General Optical Council’s business standards, as well as the radical effect of COVID-19 on approaches to infection prevention and control.

The advice covers the AOP position on setting appropriate sight test times for patient needs, and the importance of giving optometrists the time to carry out their work, complete records and take appropriate rest breaks. It also advises on scheduling appointments, the dangers of routinely scheduling unstaffed, so-called ‘ghost’ clinics and potential issues around pay incentives.

Continuity of care and ensuring patient follow-up is another key topic covered in the guidance, along with tips for locum optometrists on how to protect themselves, and how employers can support them to mitigate risks.

Finally, as research by the AOP revealed that pre-registration students and supervisors frequently have too little time for supervisions and progress reviews, we explain how employers should support supervisors and pre-registration optometrists to succeed.

Alongside the guidance and tips for practitioners, we have outlined ways the AOP will support members facing these issues in practice. We encourage members to review the guidance as it applies to them. The pages include contact details for members of the AOP’s legal and regulatory teams who can help members who are concerned about the pressures they work under.

How do you hope the new webpages will support members in daily practice?

I hope that members will find it helpful to see how the way the practice organises itself can make a difference to their ability to do a good job. It doesn’t take responsibility away from the individual to do the best job possible, but it does show how the employer can create an environment for excellent care. When members feel that they are coming under pressure to cut corners or act against patient interests in any way, they should know that they can come to the experts at the AOP for advice and support.