Pivotal time ahead for UK independents

Practices need to reinvent themselves to stay one step ahead, warns Sight Care’s outgoing chief executive Paul Surridge

Paul Surridge

The next three years will be pivotal for independent practices in the UK, Sight Care’s outgoing chief executive, Paul Surridge (pictured), has warned. 

In the run-up to Sight Care’s annual business conference for independents (29 February, Hilton Metropole Hotel, Birmingham), Mr Surridge told OT: “In my view the next three years will be pivotal for UK independents. There are so many changes on the horizon, driven largely by technological advancement, that will revolutionise the way healthcare and optics are delivered. 

“Whilst technology drives change, economic factors can so easily derail that change, and my concern is that another recession is not far away. All the economic indicators point to fear and uncertainty.”

Mr Surridge explained: “We know that, despite almost zero inflation and flatlining interest rates, UK consumer debt is the highest in Europe. An interest rate rise later in 2016, no matter how small, will impact on consumer confidence and people’s willingness to spend. 

“I’m also concerned that our participation in a future EU is also questionable. If an ‘out’ vote in the referendum manifests itself, this could spark a run on the pound and the probability of a break-up of the UK, as Scotland seeks to extricate itself. 

“These factors are very relevant to the prospects of optics UK in the years ahead, of that there’s no doubt,” he concluded.

The Sight Care conference was established to help independents to differentiate their practices to combat challenges to their business and to network with their peers.

This is the 15th consecutive year that the event has been held and it now attracts hundreds of independent practice owners and their staff. The conference is free to attend and is open to all independents, not just Sight Care members. Turning to this year’s event, which has the theme ‘Better together,’ Mr Surridge highlighted that the conference would attract “some of the most progressive independents in the UK.”

He told OT: “This is a busy time of year for events in the optical calendar, and it’s difficult for practitioners to juggle their time out of practice, but despite that, we’ll be welcoming some of the most progressive independents in the UK to a day full of great presentations, transferable ideas and the opportunity to network.  

“Independents have to define their future, and not wait for the agenda to be determined by others. Sight Care has been a leading force over the years, helping shape a business model that appeals to consumers in local communities. 

“Differentiation is not a one-off initiative, it’s a way of life. Independent businesses constantly need to re-invent themselves, ensuring they are one step ahead of the crowd.”      

The business event will feature eight speaker presentations, with a pre-conference workshop and dinner for Sight Care members the day before (28 February). 

Sight Care will be launching a number of new membership initiatives to help practice owners “understand and execute plans that will have a positive impact on their future – irrespective of the challenges that may come along.”   

For more information, visit the Sight Care website