On the ground at the AOP

An explainer on... engaging with MPs

Freya Stenton, AOP external affairs officer, explains how the association is engaging with policymakers and shares advice for how members can get in touch with their MPs

Drawing of the Houses of Parliament in London

There is a crisis in primary care. A lot of work is being done to improve integration between primary and community care, and there is a lot of focus on dentistry and GPs, but not enough emphasis is being put on optometry.

The membership of the AOP is the most important aspect of why we come to work every day – to represent the optometrists working within the UK. Ultimately, we want to raise the profile of their work within the primary care network. We feel that we are in the position to be the first port of call for ministers and policy makers, to provide intel on what optometrists in the UK are really feeling.


We’ve been working to engage political stakeholders in all the campaigns the AOP has been running. For example, with our Sight for SEN campaign, raising awareness of the need for a long-term commitment to the special school’s eye care service, we wrote to every MP who has a special school in receipt of the service in their constituency, as well as any relevant health ministers and shadow ministers to bring awareness to the scheme. We contacted 37 MPs in total and took a very individualised approach to each letter we sent, including specific information about their constituency, and we achieved a great impact.

By the end of autumn we will have attended three party conferences: Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrats. We wrote to more than 100 MPs inviting them to meet with us at the conferences to discuss our Sight Won’t Wait campaign, and three ‘quick wins’ that the next Government could achieve to help reduce ophthalmology backlogs.

These proposed quick wins include: greater IT connectivity between primary and secondary care, increasing the diagnostic role of optometrists in community care to reduce expanding NHS backlogs in ophthalmology, and elevating the prescribing powers of optometrists to alleviate pressure on GP services and secondary care.

On a daily basis we monitor critical debates, as well as oral and written questions that are submitted to government. We engage our current relationships with MPs to ask questions of ministers and government departments and put pressure on the health department to implement necessary changes to ensure optometrists are given the resources and funding they need to do the amazing work they do every day.

Local MPs

It’s easy for members to get in touch with their MP. Each Member of Parliament has their own website, and also has a profile on the UK Parliament website, which will outline their contact details and any roles they are currently undertaking in Parliament. Anyone who does not know their MP can type their postcode into the UK Parliament website to find their representative. It is also possible to see an MP’s voting record, either on their UK Parliament profile, or on the website This can be a great indication of whether they are representing your views.

Whether or not your MP is a member of a political party that you personally subscribe to, their primary role is to represent the views of their constituents


MPs can be contacted via email, phone, or by letter. MPs also hold surgeries in their constituencies, so members could arrange an appointment to discuss issues face-to-face. The AOP has some resources that can help members to get in touch with their MPs. For example, we have a template letter available for download on the Sight for SEN campaign website. All members need to do is add in some extra information, and then send to their MP. 

One thing I would personally like to do is engage MPs in local optometry – encouraging them into the constituencies to meet optometrists and see the work that they do. We encourage any members interested in hosting an MP visit to get in touch.

It is your democratic right to vote in elections as a resident of the UK. Whether or not your MP is a member of a political party that you personally subscribe to, their primary role is to represent the views of their constituents.

Interested in hosting your MP for a practice visit? Get in touch.

The AOP five-year strategy: Building external influence and policy making

In 2022, we laid out the five-year strategy, of which a major part focuses on building external influence and policy making, as well as creating a vision for legislation and regulation. We want the voice of our members to be the loudest in the room, and to make sure that policy makers are hearing from the people on the ground.

Our aim is to become an industry leader in the sector and to be the first port of call when ministers need advice for future policy related to optometry regulation and reform. That way, we can ensure the safest future for the industry and protect it by getting to the heart of the decision-making process.

MPs are very stretched; they don’t have information on everything, and often they will reach out to industry leaders to understand the details. We want to be the organisation they reach out to.

Learn more about how the AOP seeks to champion optometry in its five-year strategy.

The AOP strategy 2022 to 2026 can be read in full on the AOP website.

Coming up at the AOP

Don't swerve a sight test Autumn/Winter
The AOP’s annual driving and eye health campaign returns this autumn. Join in at:

AOP Council meeting 1 November
The AOP Council will gather in London for the third meeting of the year, to discuss key topics in optometry. Find your Councillor here:

Westminster Eye Health Day 11 December 
As a partner in The Eyes Have It partnership, the AOP will highlight the importance of eye health with MPs.