AOP support

The AOP introduces Whole Life Course

The AOP is seeking members to participate in a new project which aims to illustrate the contribution of optometry throughout a person’s life

Human life course
Getty/Malte Mueller

The AOP is encouraging members to share their experiences and patient stories to feed into the organisation’s lobbying and policy work.

As part of its work to influence the government, media and public opinion, the AOP shared that it is seeking patient and practitioner stories, which are the best way to show complicated health and optical issues in a tangible and understandable way.

The most recent call for contributions comes as the AOP begins work on the Whole Life Course, a project which will seek to demonstrate the contribution of optometry throughout people’s lives – from birth and early years through school-age, work, and later life.

Describing the project, Kathy Jones, policy adviser for the AOP, explained that Whole Life Course is a term adopted from a stocktake of primary care integration by Dr Claire Fuller, chief executive-designate Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care System and GP, commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement. The term is meant to convey not only how the NHS supports people with their medical needs, but also how people can be supported to stay healthy and to care for their own health.

The AOP plans to map the important points in a person’s life and produce campaigns that reflect the importance of eye health across an individual’s lifespan. Central to this work will be patient stories from members, providing accessible descriptions of key issues and examples of the contribution of optometrists.

Speaking to OT, Jones described the reason for the project: “We want to show — to the public, to politicians and to the rest of the NHS — the important part that optometrists play at every point in a person’s life.”

“Everything from the day-to-day miracle of giving a child the right pair of glasses, through to the extra work that optometrists do to support people who can’t access eye care easily, to the role of the optometrist in finding disease and securing or providing ongoing care for people with cataracts or macular degeneration,” she explained.

The Whole Life Course project will likely extend over three years because of the sheer amount to cover.

“Whether it’s sight changes in pregnancy, providing sight tests for children with learning difficulties, encouraging young adults to look after their eyes, getting the right eyewear for work, sports and hobbies, or caring for people with eye health emergencies or long term conditions,” Jones said. “We want to show how optometrists contribute to everyone’s eye care, including people who tend to get a raw deal in healthcare, like homeless people, prisoners, or Travellers, Gypsy and Romany people.”

The AOP is keen to hear from members passionate about their work, who would be willing to be interviewed and photographed, and who could help find a patient who might also like to participate.

Members who would like to share their experiences, or are aware of a patient who would be happy to discuss their story, are encouraged to get in touch with the AOP by emailing [email protected].