Supersizing eye care in the South

Talks are underway to establish a new “mega” body for eye care in the south of England, encompassing five Local Optical Committees

A new “super” eye care body comprising five Local Optical Committees (LOCs) is being rolled out across the south of England, with potential for the conglomerate to gain further coverage.

Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU) chief executive, Richard Whittington, emphasised to OT  that the development of a far-reaching Primary Eyecare Company (PEC) in the south could be a template for the sector to match the Sustainable Transformation Plan (STP) footprints being rolled out by the NHS as part of its reforms.

He added that the optical sector will need to match the geography of STPs if it is to achieve the strategic objective of seeing eye health services delivered at scale.

Mr Whittington shared that the merger is a blueprint for the consolidation of PECs within optics and across LOCs.

“This merger, which could ultimately cover the entire southern part of England, offers a blueprint for others in terms of the merger discussion process, the structure and the governance,” he highlighted.

LOCSU hosted merger talks between representatives from East Sussex, West Sussex, Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire LOCs in May. Mr Whittington highlighted that ongoing talks addressed the possibility of widening this to cover other areas in the south of England.

All five LOCs and LOCSU agreed a proposed structure for the mega-PEC. Each LOC will have board representation.

Mr Whittington explained that detailed discussion also set out the distribution of responsibilities between the LOC and the PEC.

“STPs support the PEC model but there is now a need to consolidate these organisations into wider, more regional, organisations,” Mr Whittington elaborated.

“We are seeing that a commissioning drive is coming from the acute trusts; therefore, commissioning discussions may be with different organisations. Commissioners of all types may wish to commission wider, speciality-based services rather than specific primary care-based services, so delivery models may need to be modified,” he explained.

Through the merger talks hosted by LOCSU, a number of misconceptions over roles, funding and responsibilities were able to be ironed out, Mr Whittington shared.

“The LOC remains responsible for the commissioning discussions and the detailed contract. Beyond that, the PEC is responsible for contract delivery. The memorandum of understanding outlines that the PEC will provide both annual and quarterly reports to the LOC and CCG.”

Mr Whittington highlighted that regional PECs are best placed to deliver step down care, a community monitoring programme that is one of LOCSU’s main strategy priorities for the coming year.

The next steps for the sector is the publication of detailed, national model for step-down care services, Mr Whittington added.

“By doing this, we will have a unified approach in terms if our contracting model, our clinical model and our cost mode,” he explained.

“This year’s National Optical Conference (NOC) will also focus on a series of practical workshops that will ensure that those appointed to a PEC to deliver governance, financial, clinical and performance elements of the contract have the specific skills and support to succeed,” Mr Whittington elaborated.

For more information, visit the LOCSU website where you will find more links to NOC feeds on social media and a video update.