100% Optical

“The very essence of what we do is build extra capacity for the NHS to change more patients’ lives faster”

OT  speaks to managing director of Newmedica, Rebecca Lythe, about the company’s growth and business development ambitions


Chartered accountant and merger acquisition specialist, Rebecca Lythe, took the reins of Newmedica almost two years ago after being offered what she describes as an “amazing opportunity to really take a business and grow it.”

The Newmedica managing director joined Specsavers in 2018 as director of strategy and retail change. Having spent 10 years previously in grocery retailing with Asda, Lythe says of her Specsavers role: “That’s where I started to understand eye health for the first time, which is very different to spaghetti and baked beans.”

It was under Lythe’s leadership that the multiple rolled out technology including optical coherence tomography (OCT) and eye refract, projects designed to support the purpose of "Changing lives through better sight”

When asked to take the helm at Newmedica, Lythe said that what attracted her to the role was, “the opportunity to grow a brand that is within a wider group and therefore have the support of the large group to do so.” She also referenced the “uniqueness” of Newmedica’s partnership structure model.

“It was early days, but I thought, ‘I can build something that is really purpose driven,’” she added.

Two years on, Lythe is most proud of the growth that Newmedica has achieved under her leadership. “When I started, there were six partnerships and now we have 15, with over 220,000 patient interactions a year,” she said.

“We have seen a huge influx of new colleagues coming into the business, and everything from the support office structure to the partnership model we have in place has grown and evolved – I really like seeing the company and our people grow and develop together,” she emphasised.

As we grow and establish a national footprint, not just in England but beyond, hopefully more people will be able to access the care they require through us


In the beginning

Speaking to OT at 100% Optical, Lythe shared insight into her first months in the role as the country was emerging from the pandemic, and highlighted that listening was her main priority.

“At the beginning, the first thing I did was lots of listening as I tried to understand ophthalmology, which was completely new for me.”

After the listening came the setting of the company’s overall ambition, with Lythe sharing that as it stands today, Newmedica’s ambition is to make a positive difference to people’s eyes – “Changing lives through better sight and eye health”

Next Lythe led Newmedica in establishing its roadmap for the next five years. She tells OT that while “big growth” is on the agenda, “underneath that is scaling the whole business: from the technology, the people, and the expertise, to setting out a year-by-year plan in order to achieve it.”

Looking ahead, Lythe informs OT that “setting up new buildings, completing new partnerships, and expanding existing partnerships” are all in the immediate future for Newmedica.

Growth in Newmedica, Lythe believes, will support health equality. “As we grow and establish a national footprint, not just in England but beyond, hopefully more people will be able to access the care they require through us.”

Second to growth is leveraging technology, which Lythe explains is about “investing in technology to really make everything more efficient and support patient safety.”

Reflecting longer-term, Lythe believes technology will bring further innovation, and “this will grow in ways we have not even thought of yet.”

Thirdly, it is about people. Lythe is passionate about the company’s learning and development programmes providing opportunities for all staff, from optometrists, to clinical assistants to IT. “Everyone should and will have an opportunity to learn at Newmedica” she said.

This also includes support and training for every optometrist on the High Street who may refer patients to Newmedica for treatment.

We are building the company very much knowing that we have an ageing population, and that ophthalmology need is expected to grow by 19% by 2030


A supportive relationship

Returning to present day, OT is interested in understanding what role Lythe believes Newmedica can play in supporting hospitals to reduce waiting lists.

“The very essence of what we do is build capacitary for the NHS to change more patients’ lives faster” answered Lythe, explaining: “We are doing that at risk – we don’t know what will actively flow to us and we don’t ask for a guaranteed volume, but we are building the company very much knowing that we have an ageing population, and that ophthalmology need is expected to grow by 19% by 2030.”

With a desire to support NHS ophthalmology services, Newmedica wants to assist those who work within it, which is why the company is supporting the training of 11 junior doctors and plans more. Through the programme, junior doctors will be supported and work alongside Newmedica consultants with the rest of their time spent within the NHS.

“[The programme] provides Newmedica with the opportunity to support the training of future ophthalmologists,” Lythe said.

Newmedica is also keen to support the training of optometrists and has already assisted hospital placements for over 100 pre-regs in the last year.

Locally, it is also important for Newmedica facilities to build relationships with optometrists practising on the High Street who will refer patients who choose Newmedica for treatment.

“They are a gateway for us,” Lythe said.

Lythe is “really passionate” about customer choice and patient choice, she explained: “We know optometrists currently have a number of companies they could recommend to their customers, and I want to make sure that every customer is equipped to make an informed decision about where they could go.”

As a result, a role of all Newmedica ophthalmology partner consultants is to support the “Power of the Professional,” an initiative that sees them get to know their local optometrist community through CPD events and networking dinners. “It is important for us that our partners get to know their local optometrist,” Lythe said, adding: “We have some partners who will pass on their mobile phone numbers to optometrists and I think this is amazing as they can establish a professional and supportive relationship.”