Smalls steps towards a giant leap: LOCSU plans for the future

“It is about ensuring that local optical committees are the starting point for commissioners when they are looking at developing services”


The need to prepare for and adapt to a rapidly evolving commissioning landscape was a key theme at the National Optical Conference (14–15 November, Chesford Grange).

Richard Whittington (pictured), from the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU), began his presentation with a historic example of how much change can happen within a relatively short amount of time.

The chief operating officer shared: “There were 66 years between the first flight and landing on the moon…As a change process, that is incredible.”

Turning to the progress within commissioning, Mr Whittington shared that early gains in clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) commissioning or intending to commission a minor eye condition service lost momentum between March 2017 and March 2018.

This occurred following the introduction of sustainability and transformation plans (STPs).

“CCGs spent the year trying to grapple with what an STP actually was,” he observed.

The number of commissioned services began to pick up again in March 2018, but with a new focus, Mr Whittington highlighted.

“What we’re seeing with commissioners is that they are moving away from commissioning individual services and moving much more towards delivering end-to-end pathways,” he said.

There was also a shift in the procurement approach, with a stronger emphasis on system control rather than clinical delivery.

Mr Whittington shared that by now most commissioners are confident in the clinical ability of primary care providers to deliver services.

“What they want to see is that the underpinning structures are robust and can weather buffeting,” he observed.

A focus on strong governance has led to the consolidation of local optical committees into primary eye care companies, Mr Whittington said.

“It is about ensuring that local optical committees (LOCs) are the starting point for commissioners when they are looking at developing services,” he said.

“LOCSU’s purpose is to provide support to LOCs and Primary Eyecare Companies (PECs) to make sure they are in the best position to win those contracts,” Mr Whittington added.

A key concern going forward is to ensure that LOCs reflect the nature of the workforce and have succession planning in place, Mr Whittington shared.

The chief operating officer also discussed work being undertaken to complete LOCSU’s strategy for the next five years.

The plan is for a draft consultation document to be produced in early 2019, with LOCs invited to attend a series of regional meetings.

A final collective blueprint will be shared with all LOCs across England later in the year.