Optical practices in Dudley will provide free health and lifestyle check-ups as part of a new initiative launched this month.
Smoking cessation, weight management and alcohol screening will be offered to patients in practices taking part in the pilot scheme, which has been devised in partnership between Dudley Local Optical Committee (LOC) and Public Health Dudley.
The brain-child of optometrist and Dudley LOC chair, Shamina Asif, the 'Healthy Living Optician' scheme is the first of its kind in England which sees opticians offer preventative health tips.
Nine practices will participate in the pilot and optical staff have completed specialist training to become accredited as Healthy Living Opticians. As part of the accreditation process, all practices participating in the scheme will establish a health information zone in practice where prevention messages and services are promoted.
Commenting on the scheme, Ms Asif said: “For the population of Dudley, the 'Healthy Living Optician' scheme will provide a valuable resource for communities and will make a tangible contribution to improvement in health and wellbeing.”
The launch of the scheme, hosted at R T Knight Opticians last Friday (7 August) was attended by the Mayor of Dudley, councillor Steve Waltho, who said he was delighted to be launching the new scheme in the borough.
She added: "All opticians provide a valuable service, but Healthy Living Opticians will provide a much broader range of support and expert advice, with each member of the team being proactive in supporting the health and wellbeing of their customers.”
Welcoming the scheme, managing director of the Local Optical Support Unit (LOCSU), Katrina Venerus, said: “Optical practices and professionals are regularly overlooked as part of the wider NHS workforce. Yet 20 million annual sight tests present an unmissable chance to start healthy conversations.
“The NHS Five Year Forward View has an explicit call for a radical upgrade in prevention. A sea change is required in healthcare delivery and opticians and optometrists can be a vital part of that.
“We have the clinical skills, the long-term customer relationships, along with community locations and seven-day opening to make significant health interventions as High Street health hubs advising on lifestyles, helping change behaviour and signposting which the NHS Five Year Forward View demands of a preventative approach."
The additional health services will be offered free of charge to anyone living or working in Dudley.Ms Venerus added: “The 'Healthy Living Optician' initiative is just the type of innovative new model of care that the NHS reforms are demanding. We will be looking closely at the results of the Dudley pilot to persuade other public health teams in England to roll out the Health Living Optician concept in their areas.”