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Professional Bodies Digital Summit at 199 Gloucester Terrace

FODO host one in a series of Professional Bodies Leadership Summits organised by the consultancy Atmosphere

The breakfast event was attended by FODO, other optical colleagues and also by representative and professional bodies from the worlds of accountancy, engineering, technology, public relations, project management, the Institute of Directors,  and physiotherapy. 

The theme of the discussion was “the purpose of representative organisations in the post digital world”.  Specific discussion points were how to prepare our memberships to operate in a post digital world (ie where digital is ubiquitous), the specific needs of the millennial generation and how we engage our memberships in achieving purposeful outcomes in their professional lives. 

David Hewlett, FODO Chief Executive said:  “Hosting this seminar for Atmosphere is part of our commitment to leadership in digital technology in the post-digital age.  We know that digitalisation is going to have a tremendous effect on the optical sector as the Foresight Project report has shown but it will also affect how we, as membership organisations, operate and interact with our members. 

"The purpose of these events is not to reach conclusions but to share perspectives and to trigger thinking about new ideas.  I certainly came away with several I will feed back into the Optical Confederation and wider optical sector.” 

Fiona Anderson, ABDO President, who was present said: “It is great to hear that so many of us in representative and professional organisations are facing similar challenges and addressing them in different ways.  We can always learn from one another and when we do that, we are all stronger for .our members.”

Catherine Bithell from the College of Optometrists said:  “We are about to review our guidance for optometrists and update our website taking account of precisely the sorts of issues we discussed at the seminar. It was great to be able to share perspectives.”   

Drivers urged to ensure safe vision standards this Road Safety Week

With an estimated 2,900 [1] road casualties caused by poor vision every year the Optical Confederation (OC) is joining forces with charity Brake to urge drivers to take a sight test this Road Safety Week.  

From 21 - 27 November the OC is raising awareness of the impact poor vision can have on driving as part of Brake’s national campaign to improve road safety. 

Road Safety Week is the UK's biggest road safety event, held annually and involves thousands of schools, organisations and communities. This year's theme is ‘Make the Brake Pledge’ focusing on six simple elements to make our roads safer - with sharp vision as one of the vital checks for drivers.

Earlier this month, the OC encouraged optical practices across the UK to kick-start the campaign by displaying a poster that couples sight test with the common driving instruction ‘Mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ – highlighting good eyesight as a crucial part of road safety.

Speaking on behalf of OC, optometrist Henry Leonard said: “The relationship between road safety and vision needs to have greater visibility and that is why we are fully committed to raising awareness for Road Safety Week in 2016.”   

Mr Leonard continued: “It’s worrying that there is no requirement for drivers to have regular sight tests; a 17-year-old who can read a number plate when they take their driving test may continue driving for the rest of their life with no further checks.

“Roadside tests have shown that many drivers subsequently fall below the required standard as their eyesight changes over time, often without realising. We believe that before being issued with a licence, and when licences are renewed every 10 years, drivers should provide evidence that they meet minimum vision requirements.”

Mike Carr, Public Affairs Advisor at Brake said: “We fully appreciate the crucial role of the optical community in achieving the real improvement in road safety we are fighting for. Commitment to regular eye checks should be one major step towards safer driving that we know will ultimately save lives”.

Road Safety Week was founded by Brake in 1997 as an annual event to raise awareness about road safety and promote steps that everyone can take to stop deaths and injuries year-round.


[1] Fit to Drive: a cost benefit analysis of more frequent eyesight testing for UK drivers, RSA Insurance Group plc, overview available on the Road Safety Observatory, 2012


Optical Confederation becomes Antibiotic Guardian

The Optical Confederation has signed a Public Health England pledge to champion prudent antibiotic prescribing in the optical sector 

The pledge is part of the NHS's support of World Antibiotics Awareness Week (14-20 November) and European Antibiotics Awareness Day (18 November). To find out more visit 

Speaking on behalf of the Optical Confederation, IP optometrist Jane Bell said: “The Optical Confederation continues to support World Antibiotics Awareness Week and as 'Antibiotics Guardians' pledge to continue promoting prudent use of antibiotics in the optical sector. Primary care optical practices have the appropriate skills and equipment to enable earlier expert diagnosis of the underlying cause of red eyes and other minor eye conditions, eliminating unnecessary prescribing of antibiotic eye drops and ointment. Optical professionals are ideally placed community eye health experts that can support the local NHS to make the right diagnosis, proscribe the right treatment and get the right result for patients with eye problems whilst reducing the overuse of antibiotics.

Optical Confederation has eyes on diabetes for World Diabetes Day

The Optical Confederation (OC)  welcomes the eye health focus of this year’s World Diabetes Day  but warns that screening for diabetic eye disease is not a substitute for a full sight test and regular eye care.

The theme of this year’s World Diabetes Day is ‘Eyes on Diabetes’, with organisations across the world promoting the importance of screening to ensure early diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and treatment to reduce the risk of serious complications – especially avoidable loss of sight through diabetic eye disease.

Despite screening,  the number of people with diabetes is still rising fast across the UK and Europe.

OC Acting Chair, Lynda Oliver explained: “Thanks to effective screening in the community, diabetic retinopathy is no longer the leading cause of blindness in England and Wales. However, it is important for the public and primary care partners to remember that diabetic eye screening is not the same thing as regular sight tests, which everyone should have.  This is essential for health and wellbeing, to correct sight and detect signs of other eye conditions which, like diabetic retinopathy, are often symptomless.

She added: The Optical Confederation would encourage everyone to arrange a sight test in their local opticians as part of their regular health routine.  The NHS also provides this service for those who cannot leave home unaided, so there is really no excuse for losing sight through lack of access to care.

The OC's David Hewlett will be speaking at a European Parliament event titled "Preventing Sight Loss in an Ageing Population"The OC’s David Hewlett, speaking at the European Parliament this week, in his role as the Chair of European umbrella group the European Coalition of Vision (ECV), emphasised the importance of regular eye examinations for everyone including anyone with diabetic eye disease. Together with colleagues from the European Alliance for Vision Research and Ophthalmology (EU-EYE) and the European Forum Against Blindness (EFAB) he highlighted the ageing population across Europe, the links to diabetes and other diseases and called for more equal  EU research funding into eye disease. 

He said:  “We need more research funding in Europe to enable improvements that not only prolong length of life but also the quality of life as well.  This means more research into eye health, preventing avoidable sight loss, and supporting people to remain independent and active as they age.”


Senior commissioner appointed as new LOCSU Chief Operating Officer

Former Clinical Commissioning Group Director, Richard Whittington has been appointed as the new Chief Operating Officer of LOCSU, the organisation has announced.

Mr Whittington, who joined LOCSU in the summer as Assistant Director, Commissioning, will take up the new post with immediate effect.

Richard WhittingtonThe new Chief Operating Officer role was created following the recent news that current Managing Director, Katrina Venerus, will at the same time move into a new part-time role as Clinical Director to allow her to fulfil her long-held ambition to complete an MSc in Healthcare Leadership as part of her professional development.

Announcing the appointment, LOCSU Chairman, Alan Tinger, said: “I am delighted that we have been able to appoint Richard as the first Chief Operating Officer of LOCSU.

“With his specialist knowledge of commissioning and service redesign, having worked at a senior level in NHS commissioning, Richard possesses the specific skills and practical experience that will help us make progress on our strategic aim to increase the pace and scale of eye health services and take out some of the strain on hospital capacity.

“In the short time he has been with LOCSU he has shown that he is the ideal candidate to take LOCSU forward and help us deliver the Breakthrough Strategy.

“This really is great news for the sector and for patients who will see the benefits of more optical practices becoming the first port of call for all eye health matters.

“Richard will benefit from the support of Katrina Venerus who has led LOCSU magnificently in the past four years as MD. Her new role as Clinical Director means that LOCSU has continuity and a formidable top team to drive progress and deliver success.”

Devon Local Optical Committee visits Westminster

Devon Local Optical Committee visits Westminster to lobby local MPs on issues facing community eye care across Devon

 The Devon Local Optical Committee visited Westminster on Tuesday 25th October for a roundtable discussion with the Devon MPs hosted by Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton.

The Devon LOC along with Neil Parish were joined by Ben Bradshaw, Sarah Wollaston, Kevin Foster and Anne-Marie Morris along with Parliamentary Assistants representing the other Devon MPs.

L-R: Charles Bill, Vice-Chairman, Max Halford, Chairman and Jonathan Drew, Business ManagerAll the Devon MPs have visited optician practices across Devon and have seen the workforce in the community and heard what optometrists and dispensing opticians can offer and have personally seen the innovative technology and services available to patients.

Max Halford, Chairman of Devon Local Optical Committee said: “Community optical practices are at the forefront of delivering high quality, patient-centred and cost effective healthcare in community settings.

“It was encouraging to hear that the local MPs were all hugely supportive of the work optometrists and dispensing opticians do in their communities, and that the MPs fully support the role of community optical practices in delivering minor eye conditions services. It was great to see our local MPs get behind us and support opticians in Devon to provide high quality eye care across the county"

Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton said “It was a pleasure to welcome the Devon Local Optical Committee to Parliament for the meeting. I know all my Devon colleagues who attended learned a lot and saw first-hand the crucial work optometrists and opticians carry out in our local communities.”

“Especially in a largely rural part of the country like Devon, it is vital people know where they can access high quality eye care. As with so many health problems, it’s important that minor eye conditions are spotted early before they become more serious. Eye problems can also be a sign of other serious health conditions, like diabetes and high cholesterol, so it’s important people get checked regularly.”  

Optical Confederation urges optical practices to promote Road Safety Week

Plans for Road Safety Week get underway today as the Optical Confederation work with charity Brake to launch a campaign highlighting the importance of sight tests for safe driving. 

With an estimated 2,900 road casualties caused by poor vision every year the optical community nationwide is being urged to support the campaign. 

Practitioners and manufacturers across the sector can support by displaying the poster in their practices ahead of the awareness week – which takes place 21 – 27 November 2016 – and by sharing digital content throughout the week. 

The OC and Brake poster, which couples sight test with the common driving instruction ‘Mirror, signal, manoeuvre’, highlights that good eyesight is a vital part of driving and safety on the road.

Road Safety Week is the UK's biggest road safety event, coordinated annually by Brake and involving thousands of schools, organisations and communities each year. Activities throughout the week include workshops and demonstrations on road safety as well as community events. 

This year's theme is ‘Make the Brake Pledge’ focusing on six simple elements to make our roads safer – with sharp vision as one of the vital checks for drivers.    

Outgoing chairman of the OC, Chris Hunt, said: “The Optical Confederation has long felt that the relationship between road safety and vision needs to have greater visibility within the public and that is why we are fully committed to driving up awareness for Road Safety Week in 2016.   

“The optical community is one that fully understands the importance of having properly assessed vision as a pre-requisite for driving on our roads. Good sight affects all aspects of driving, including crucially reaction and braking times, which in turn has safety implications not only for the driver themselves but for passengers and others on the road.  We are therefore calling on all practitioners and manufacturers to enthusiastically get behind the promotion of this very important issue."

Mike Carr, Public Affairs Advisor at Brake said: “We fully appreciate the crucial role of the optical community in achieving the real improvement in road safety we are fighting for. Commitment to regular eye checks should be one major step towards safer driving that we know will ultimately save lives”.

Road Safety Week was founded by Brake in 1997 as an annual event to raise awareness about road safety and promote steps that everyone can take to stop needless deaths and injuries year-round.

Last chance to apply for Africa optometry project bursary

The nominations phase for a fund supporting optical students to visit Africa with Vision Aid Overseas closes next week.

Each year, the Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund (IAMF) and Vision Aid Overseas (VAO) offer two bursaries for 2nd year optical students (Glasgow – 3rd yr) to experience work in Africa through a grant made available by the Federation of (Ophthalmic and Dispensing) Opticians (FODO).

Amy outside the Eye Bank at Menelik II Referral Hospital, Addis Abba To mark the 50th anniversary of the fund the IAMF is offering two bursaries (worth £1700 each) to enable optometric students to join a VAO assignment travelling to Africa for two weeks during the summer of 2017.

Speaking about her experience visiting Ethiopia with VAO this summer, IAMF award winner Amy Gumbrell spoke about how her experience was a great opportunity to see how optical practise is carried out outside of the UK.  

The experience highlighted to me how extremely lucky and privileged we are in the UK for all the facilities and equipment we have so readily available, but also showed me a beautiful country and new culture with welcoming people who were so grateful to receive our help.”

During her time on the project Amy had an opportunity to carry out sight tests, witness tropical diseases and conditions rarely seen in the UK, observe surgeries carried out by an ophthalmologist and help teaching nurses basic refraction to improve their skills. She encouraged students to apply and have a chance to take part in a very rewarding project:

Teaching refraction to students My confidence and skills improved greatly over the trip; I was more challenged then I had ever been before… The fact that I was able to cope with this and still refract the large numbers of patients that the team did proved to me that a lot is possible if you put your mind to it and push your boundaries.”

Students are encouraged to fill out the application form and send it in before the deadline this weekend. 

Irvine Aitchison Application Form 2017 (word document)

Irvine Aitchison Application Form 2017 (pdf document)


FODO Ireland joins the European Council for Optometry and Optics (ECOO)

FODO Ireland became a member of the European Council for Optometry and Optics (ECOO) at the recent General Assembly meeting in Ljubljana.

Daniel Carry, Member Services Manager  for FODO Ireland, who attended the meeting in Ljubljana, said “We are delighted that the General Assembly voted to accept FODO Ireland as a member of ECOO. As a member of ECOO, we look forward to actively contributing to the discourse on the future of optics with our European colleagues and working to achieve the best outcomes for our members and the sector.”

FODO Ireland was established in 2012 and has been increasingly active in the promotion and development of optics in Ireland. Our members provide over half a million sight tests a year to the public. As part of our membership of ECOO, FODO Ireland will work alongside the Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) in jointly representing Ireland at future General Assemblies.

LOCSU Annual Report shows increase in primary care eye services

The increased number of primary care practices delivering care close to patient’s homes and so tackling capacity problems in the Hospital Eye Service is highlighted in the LOCSU Annual Report published today.

Activity through the LOC Company model has doubled and annual service revenue has risen to £8.5 million, according to the 2015-16 Annual Report.

There are now 552 services being delivered by optical practices in the community, with 109 rolled out since April 2015. Similarly, there are 133 services being delivered through Primary Eyecare Companies with 101 going live since April 2014.

Publishing the latest Annual Report, Managing Director, Katrina Venerus said: “The increase in the number of services and level of patient activity and increased revenue for community practices is real progress.  

“The Annual Report show increases in both MECS and step-down care, two of our key targets outlined in the Breakthrough Strategy. With our new expanded Commissioning Team now embedded and starting to deliver, we are clearly out of the blocks in driving the scale and pace of community eye health services.”

The Report, which covers the period August 2015 to July 2016, also show that 55% of LOCS now have a MECS pathway ­across 81 CCGs out of 208. And 182 CCGs have at least one eye health service.

Follow this link to the LOCSU website to view the Building for Breakthrough – LOCSU Annual Report 2015-2016.

FODO Host Professional Bodies Digital Leadership Summit

Tickets available for roundtable summit examining the purpose of professional bodies in the ‘Post-digital Age’

The Federation of Opticians will host the meeting this November 18 at 199 Gloucester Terrace, welcoming digital leaders and representatives from major UK membership organisations to discuss what the future holds for professional representative bodies in an age of technological disruption.

Run by the business agency Atmosphere, the breakfast session will examine how these bodies can adapt to a proliferation of new digital technologies by becoming ‘more human’ rather than ‘more digital’. Participants will discuss how, in an immersive tech world full of low-cost digital tools, members are looking for more relevant relationships with their professional organisations that are focused on driving meaningful change.

David HewlettOptical Confederation member and FODO and NCHA chief executive, David Hewlett said: “Moving with the times and indeed being ahead of  them is something we pride ourselves on.  The digital revolution is here to stay and moving at a pace that makes Moore’s Law seem an understatement.   It will affect all our lives as the Foresight Project Report and the recent College seminar have shown.   It is a pleasure therefore to host an Atmosphere event and learn from other sectors.   If successful we will consider approaching Atmosphere to run a session for our members”.

To register for the event visit 

FODO Ireland welcomes restoration and expansion of Optical Treatment Benefit Scheme in Budget 2017

The Federation of Ophthalmic and Dispensing Opticians (FODO) Ireland warmly welcomed announcements about the Treatment Benefit Scheme in yesterday’s Budget, in particular the restoration of free spectacle provision or contribution towards spectacles and the inclusion of self-employed workers, for the first time, into the Scheme.

Ann BlackmoreAnn Blackmore, Director of Policy and Strategy at FODO Ireland, said “FODO Ireland is delighted that the Minister has responded positively to our calls for the restoration of optical benefits and for bringing self-employed workers into the Treatment Benefit Scheme. This is a very positive move which will enable proper access to sight testing and treatments for working people.

The Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar TD, in announcing the changes to the Scheme yesterday said that the ‘expansion of the Scheme means that the range of optical treatments will benefit up to 2.5 million people’.

Since 2010, beneficiaries of the Scheme who received a sight test were not entitled to receive free glasses or optical vouchers as a result of cuts made in the 2009 Budget. FODO Ireland has campaigned to persuade the Government of the importance of restoring the provision for dispensing spectacles or contribution towards spectacles to ensure that patients would receive the help they needed to correct any problems with their sight. Expanding the benefits of the Scheme to the self-employed was also a key component of the FODO Ireland pre-Budget submission.

Under the terms of the restoration, patients who are tested and who require glasses can be provided with free glasses or a contribution (up to €42) towards the cost of glasses depending on their choice. The provisions for dispensing spectacles or contribution towards spectacles will take effect from October 2017.From March of next year, self-employed people, including farmers, who make category S PRSI payments, will be able to avail of the same benefits as all other beneficiaries of the scheme.

European Coalition for Vision backs Marrakesh Treaty

The European Coalition for Vision (ECV) has warmly endorsed the Marrakesh Treaty on accessible reading materials and congratulated the World Blind Union and World Intellectual Property Organization on their campaign to get all countries to ratify the treaty. 

The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled received the support of 20 countries, enabling it to be adopted on 30 September 2016. However the European Union and individual member states are still seeking to resolve whether the EU can ratify the treaty on behalf of all member states or whether each member state needs to ratify it separately.

David HewlettSpeaking for the Coalition, ECV Chair David Hewlett said: “Books open windows on the world for everyone, so this is an issue of equality and fairness.  We urge our European governments to ratify the treaty with the minimum of delay. We are delighted to highlight and support the Treaty as the ECV, along with other champions for eye health and equality around the world, promotes World Sight Day this Thursday, 13 October.”

Bob Chappell, ECV member for the European Council for Optometry and Optics (ECOO) and Chair of the ECV’s Healthy and Active Ageing work-stream, said: “We applaud the hard work of the WBU and WIPO to facilitate access to published works for people who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise unable to read   printed materials. This is key to independence and healthy and active ageing: Europe should be at the forefront of those taking action.”     


#EyeHealthEU: campaign to awareness about preventable sight loss on World Sight Day

FODO Chief Exec and ECV Chair David Hewlett gets involvedThis 13th October marks World Sight Day, which galvanizes the eye health community to draw attention on a global level about blindness and vision impairment. Blindness and vision loss can be prevented or treated in at least 50% of the cases, but screening and early diagnosis are key to make this happen! This year, the European Forum Against Blindness (EFAB), the European Coalition for Vision (ECV) and the European Alliance for Vision Research and Ophthalmology (EU EYE) on a social media campaign to raise awareness about preventable sight loss.

FODO Chief Executive David Hewlett is the current chair of the ECV. 

To mark the day, the social media campaign will spread a simple message: We need to talk about eyes! Vision loss and blindness require the immediate attention of national and European policymakers. As Europeans live longer and longer, we need improved mechanisms for screening and identifying eye diseases early on, especially with at risk groups such as people affected by diabetes or other chronic diseases. This helps us realise the objective of a healthy ageing European population.

Join the online campaign for World Sight Day on 13 October - the idea is simple!

  • Visit the ECV website or click on the attachments to the message to discover a set of 7 key messages
  • Print the message that you would like to spread
  • Hold the message high and take a selfie (or ask someone to take a photo of you)
  • Post it on Twitter or Facebook using the campaign hashtag (#EyeHealthEU) and the World Sight Day hashtags (#WorldSightDay, #WSD2016)

Please free to share the following tweets:

  • Help us raise awareness about preventable #blindness on #WorldSightDay by tweeting a selfie! #EyeHealthEU
  • Proud to support #EyeHealthEU campaign on the occasion of #WorldSightDay!

As advocating with one collective voice is central to making eye health a priority for national governments and to improve vision awareness among the general population, we look forward to receiving your selfies!

Don Grocott new Master of Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers

Don Grocott was installed as the new Master of the Spectacle Makers’ Company on Wednesday 5 October 2016.

Don is well known across the optical world, having been Chairman of the Association of Contact Lens Manufacturers and President of Euromcontact, the European contact lens manufacturers’ federation. He was also President of the Association of Optometrists and President of FODO, before spearheading the formation of the Optical Confederation to bring together key players in optics and present a co-ordinated view to  government on issues affecting UK optical professionals, manufacturers, retailers, distributors and importers.  Don was Chairman of the Optical Confederation until October 2014.

The Installation of the new Master and Wardens took place during the Company’s annual service at St Bride’s, Fleet Street and was followed by a lunch at the historic Apothecaries’ Hall in the City of London, attended by visiting City Livery Company Masters and many guests and friends from across optics.

Nockolds to provide new complaints mediation service for veterinary sector

The provider of the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS), Nockolds Solicitors, has launched a new complaints mediation service for the Veterinary Sector. The scheme is launched as a trial funded by Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) from 3 October 2016 to see how complaint mediation may benefit veterinary surgeons, their practices and animal owners across the UK.

As Jennie Jones, Head of the OCCS explains:

The RCVS was very interested to hear and learn more about the impact of complaint mediation in Optics. It was great to share the experience from the Optical sector and we now very much look forward to exploring how mediation and also key insight sharing can developed in the veterinary sector. Once again, I thank those involved in Optics who have assisted by sharing their views and experiences with the RCVS and the ongoing commitment to positive complaint resolution in our sector

For more information on the Veterinary Client Mediation Service please visit

Optical practices should be high street health hubs

Cllr Jonathan McShane, Local Government Association and Katrina Venerus, Local Optical Committee Support Unit

High street optical practices can deliver preventative health for patients, especially for those who do not often visit a GP, as highlighted by a new guide for local authorities, jointly produced by the Optical Confederation, Local Optical Committee Support Unit and the Local Government Association.

The eye health and public health experts say that optical practices are perfectly placed to deliver health and lifestyle check-ups, offering care closer to home for patients and taking pressure off of hospitals and GPs.

The guide, Improving eye health through community optical practice, calls on local authorities to make better use of the nationwide network of optical practices in every community to make every contact count and help combat smoking,  alcohol consumption, obesity, falls, isolation and more.

“A sea change is required in eye health care delivery, and opticians and optometrists can be a vital part of that,” says Katrina Venerus of the Optical Confederation.

“With the NHS under such serious financial constraint, health and well being boards are encouraged to utilise existing resources such as optical practices in their plans to tackle unhealthy lifestyles and future problems of an ageing population.

“Optical practices should be the first port of call for all eye health issues, not just thought of for sight tests and buying glasses. Optometrists and opticians are dedicated health professionals who can make a difference to the health of local people in every community.”

Opticians and Optometrists have the clinical skills and the long-term customer relationships, along with community locations and seven-day opening, to make significant health interventions.  Practices can act as high-street health hubs advising on lifestyles, behavioural change and signposting, as demanded by the Five Year Forward View’s focus on prevention.

The guide is aimed at Health and Wellbeing Boards in England and Scrutiny Committees, who may find the guide useful when reviewing Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs).

Follow the link for a copy of the guide:

Optical Confederation meets with new primary care minister David Mowat MP

From l-r: OC Chair Chris Hunt, AOP Chief Executive Henrietta Alderman, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, David Mowat MP, Derek Busby, Dental and Eye Care Service Department of Health, David Geddes, Head of Primary Care Commissioning, Helen Miscampbell, Dental & Eye Care Section Head, Department of Health

Optical Confederation meets with new primary care minister, David Mowat MP to discuss the crucial role of the optical sector

Optical Confederation (OC) representatives called for the roll-out of Minor Eye Care Services (MECS) to all commissioning areas across England at their first meeting with the new Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, David Mowat MP.  

Central to the discussions were the pressures facing hospitals and GPs. Chris Hunt, OC Chair, and OC Chief Executives’ representative, Henrietta Alderman emphasised the value of community optical practitioners supporting NHS care, the public health role of the sight test and the scope for utilising local practices to allow more routine services to be brought out of hospital and provided closer to home. This would both add extra capacity to local health systems and deliver an effective, cost efficient eye health service in the community.

Chris Hunt said: “We are heartened that the Minister was genuinely interested in how the optical sector can offer real value within a primary care setting and deliver the Five Year Forward View. He was surprised that eye health services were not higher up the NHS agenda, a concern which we fully share. Indeed it was not clear that officials had convincing answers for this.” 

Chief Executive of the AOP, Henrietta Alderman said: “Community optical professionals and practices are already proven in delivering high-quality eye care services over and above the sight test, for example, monitoring stable glaucoma patients in the community and treating minor eye problems. The OC is keen to champion community eye health services and we were pleased that the new minister shared our desire to integrate optics into the wider NHS system and primary care planning.”

The OC and Mr Mowat agreed to meet again in early 2017. Mr Mowat will also speak at the National Optical Conference in November 2016.

Reducing pressure on hospitals: Lessons from the frontline of community health

The Optical Confederation (OC), in conjunction with the NHS Confederation, Local Government Association and the Health Foundation, is hosting fringe events at the upcoming Labour and Conservative party conferences.

The events will explore key themes facing the health sector including

  • cuts to public health funding
  • delivering more healthcare in the community
  • social care provision and
  • preventative healthcare.

The events, ‘Hospitals under pressure: the community solution?’, will take place on 26 September (Labour) and 4 October (Conservative).

They will see senior representatives from each organisation discuss the ways in which community health care providers can help reduce pressure on hospitals, with the community optical sector held up as a good example of how local services can support change in a sustainable way.

These events will highlight to conference delegates, including Health and Wellbeing Board members and councillors, how community providers are relieving pressure on GPs and hospitals. They will examine how this helps to close the NHS funding and capacity gap whilst delivering on the NHS’s own priority to provide more care out of hospital and closer to home.

Speaking on behalf of the Optical Confederation, Katrina Venerus said, “These events are a great opportunity to highlight to key stakeholders how community eye health providers are relieving pressure on GPs and hospitals. We will be sharing best practice examples of locally commissioned eye care services and calling on political decision-makers to follow national priorities and accelerate the uptake of these models at scale and pace, increasing access and capacity in an innovative yet sustainable way in their local areas.”

VISION 2020 UK announce Astbury Award winner at FODO HQ

The winner of the 2016 Astbury Award has been announced this week at a ceremony at FODO headquarters in London.

Now in their third year, the awards, named for former VISION 2020 UK Chair and inaugural recipient Nick Astbury, were set up to recognise work that fosters excellence in collaboration within the eye health and sight loss sectors. Nominations were taken from VISION 2020 UK member organisations.

The Award winnersThis year’s winner is the London Employment Programme Pilot, ‘Works For Me’, from Thomas Pocklington Trust (TPT). The pilot programme supports people with sight loss to gain and retain paid employment. Collaboration with businesses, charities and individual professionals gave the programme access to resources far beyond its own capacity including event space, expertise, volunteering hours, professional networks and peer support all of which contributed to some staggering employment outcomes.

TPT is working with Visionary, the membership organisation linking local sight loss charities, to use the learnings from the report to support others in the sector to implement lessons learned about collaborative working.

Highly Commended certificates were awarded to The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) for the See, Plan and Provide campaign; The UK Practice and Development Team (UKPDT); and Mark Godfrey, Project Lead, for the booklet ‘Sight Loss – what we needed to know’.

Alexa Sage, who managed the Employment Programme Pilot, said: “We are delighted to win the Astbury Award. It is a wonderful recognition of this project, which supported people with sight loss to gain and retain paid employment. Going forward, Pocklington’s partner, Visionary, will be sharing the learning from an independent evaluation of the pilot by NCVO’s Charities Evaluation Services, to support local organisations across the UK in delivering employment services to blind and partially sighted people.”

Mercy JeyasinghamVISION 2020 UK CEO, Mercy Jeyasingham, commented, “We are very aware of how often collaboration goes unnoticed. Important collaborative work goes on behind the scenes in the various VISION 2020 UK Standing Committees and elsewhere which produces excellent outcomes but receive little acknowledgement. The Astbury Award was created to celebrate this work and to allow us to show how effective and powerful collaboration can be.”

Including the winners there were 12 shortlisted entries for the Astbury Award 2016. Details of all the shortlisted projects can be found at

VISION 2020 UK have thanked the Optical Confederation for sponsoring the venue for this event.

Optical Confederation backs National Eye Health Week 2016

The Optical Confederation is throwing its support behind National Eye Health Week (NEHW) 2016, highlighting the importance of taking care of your eyes and the need for regular sight tests for all.

More than a thousand events and activities are expected to take place next week (19 – 25 September) to raise awareness of eye health amongst the public and to offer eye care advice.

David Cartwright, Chair of National Eye Health Week said: “We want the whole sector to inspire people to take better care of their eyes, realise how important regular eye examinations are and how good vision correction enhances everyday lives."

Chris HuntResearch released this week by the RNIB shows that more than 27 per cent of the public (14 million people) do not have regular sight tests. This includes people at risk of preventable sight loss, such as those with diabetes or a family history of glaucoma.

Chris Hunt, Optical Confederation Chair said: “National Eye Health Week is one of the sector's great successes with everyone working together to help the public and save sight.  We are also showcasing what community optical practices can do to deliver NHS eye health services out of hospital and closer to home.  Good luck to everyone who takes part.

Progress, Continuity and Change at LOCSU

LOCSU’s board has announced important changes to the organisation following its quarterly meeting today.

The Board heard that positive early progress had been made towards delivering the targets in the Breakthrough Strategy following the embedding of the expanded commissioning team.

After four years leading LOCSU, Managing Director, Katrina Venerus, is to take up a new part-time role as Clinical Director. This change will allow her to fulfill her long-held ambition to complete an MSc in Healthcare Leadership as part of her professional development.

The LOCSU Board were very keen not to lose Katrina’s skills and experience and are pleased to have been able to agree with her that she will remain in a new three-day per week post.

LOCSU is today announcing plans to recruit a new Chief Officer to continue to drive through the ambitious targets in the Breakthrough Strategy to completion and into the next stages.

LOCSU Chairman, Alan Tinger, said: “I am delighted that Katrina will continue to be involved at the heart of LOCSU’s work in a senior role as its Clinical Director. As previously, she will continue to provide expert advice, guidance and leadership for key projects and sector-wide policy development and will continue to represent LOCSU externally and with partners including the Clinical Council for Eye Health Commissioning.

I am very proud that LOCSU has gone from strength to strength under Katrina’s stewardship and that she is now recognised as a leader of and within the sector.”

Mr Tinger said that, in the meantime, no-one should notice any changes in LOCSU’s day-to-day support and service as Katrina will remain in her current role until the recruitment has been completed.

Payment Service Plan Must Deliver, Insist OpticalLeaders

Optical sector leaders have made it clear to NHS England and Capita that the latest plan to turn around the ophthalmic payments service must not fail.

Leaders demanded crunch talks to highlight the acute problems the chaos was causing the sector and to hear NHS England’s plans for the improvement of the Primary Care Support England (PCSE) service, delivered by Capita. 

In a letter to the sector following urgent discussions on 30 August, NHS England apologised for the failures in the services. Karen Wheeler, the NHS England director responsible for overseeing the contract, provided assurances that Capita were being held to account for their unacceptable service levels and confirmed that financial penalties had been applied.

She confirmed that she has also been working with Capita at CEO level to ensure there is now better focus and additional resources going into driving recovery across PCSE. The NHS England director said she expects Capita’s operational improvement plan to stabilize the ophthalmic payments service by the end of October and for all residual issues to be resolved by the end of the year.

Speaking on behalf of the optical sector, Katrina Venerus said: “We welcome the honesty from NHS England to accept there have been unacceptable service failures and to apologise for the difficulties and pressures these have added to optical contractors and professionals in England.

We have seen Capita’s plans and we will maintain week-by-week scrutiny to verify improvements are in line with the recovery plan. We will continue to keep the sector informed as usual via LOCSU Hot Briefs.”

The optical sector has also demanded immediate action to address current delays in processing performer list applications, especially for newly-qualified optometrists, which has had an unacceptable impact on the profession.

Venerus added “It is essential that the plans to get the ophthalmic payments service and performer list service are fully implemented as soon as possible and we will continue to review progress with PCSE and NHS England on a weekly basis until the service has recovered.

Read the full text of the letter on the LOCSU website.

European Coalition for Vision Welcomes New Vice Chair

The ECV has elected Jean-Félix Biosse Duplan as Vice Chair to help support their expanding influencing workload across Europe

European Coalition for Vision Logo

The European Coalition for Vision (ECV) has created a new Vice Chair post to support the organisation’s growing workload across Europe. They are delighted to announce that Jean-Félix Biosse Duplan was elected to the role this Friday (9 September).

Jean-Félix is a Vice President of Eurom1 – the European Manufacturers Ophthalmic Association (Lenses and Frames).  He has wide experience of business to business operations and optical manufacturing in Asia, the Pacific, India and China and in Europe through Essilor and the Essilor Vision Impact Institute. Jean-Félix also sits on the boards of two of Frances’ leading optical organisations, Asnav and GIFO.

David Hewlett, ECV Chair, said: “Jean-Félix is already an enthusiastic and hard -working member of the Coalition and will make an exceptional Vice Chair.  With so many urgent issues for the ECV to lead on these days, we need active and engaged members and leaders at all levels. Jean-Félix has the skills, experience, knowledge and commitment to help us excel.  He also brings important links to the manufacturers, innovators and R&D globally.  He will be a tremendous asset as we continue to fight for better eye health, services, innovation and support, for all citizens across Europe.”

Jean-Félix Biosse Duplan said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to take a bigger role for the European Coalition for Vision.  A lot of combined efforts are needed to make our political and health leaders at European and country level recognise the public health value and the crucial personal and economic importance of eye health and best vision. The ECV is clearly the most widely based and collaborative organization to champion these issues and I am very excited to devote more time and energy to helping it succeed”

Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund Celebrates Golden Anniversary As Applications Open for Student Travel Bursaries

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund.

Ahead of the milestone, the Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund (IAMF) and Vision Aid Overseas (VAO) are inviting optical students to apply for the 2017 bursary.

Click here to learn moreEach year, the Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund (IAMF) and Vision Aid Overseas (VAO) offer two bursaries for 2nd year optical students to experience work in Africa through a grant made available by the Federation of (Ophthalmic and Dispensing) Opticians (FODO).

The award, originally supported by FODO forerunner the Society of Opticians in 1966, has so far enabled over 40 students to experience working conditions and eye problems very different from those found in the UK.

This has been invaluable to previous recipients in their future careers, including senior lecturer at Aston University, Hannah Bartlett.

“I was very fortunate to travel to Swaziland as an Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund bursary recipient”, recalls Hannah. “I had a fantastic experience and learnt so much about eye care in developing countries.

“The trip also provided the opportunity for me to develop my team-working, organisational and communication skills, especially as there was a language barrier to contend with.

“I met and worked with people from such a range of different backgrounds; it provided invaluable life experience.”

The fund commemorates its first chairman, Irvine Aitchison, co-founder of Dollond&Aitchison, who played a prominent role in promoting the Opticians Act (1958) and was a founder member of the General Optical Council.

Irvine Aitchison’s sense of adventure, combined with an unfailing demand for high standards in education, led The Trustees of the Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund to work with Vision Aid Overseas to give optical students a chance to work on an overseas project and expand their skills and horizons.

David Cartwright Chair of the IAMF said: “The Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund was originally set up to hold annual educational lectures, but more recently has sponsored optometry students to embark on overseas projects.

“We are extremely proud to reach such a significant milestone and celebrate the incredible opportunities that have been created over the past fifty years through education and travel.

“We invite optical students from the UK and Ireland to apply for the 2017 bursary and we look forward to creating more opportunities for young volunteers and hopefully setting them on a path to become the optical leaders of tomorrow.”

Application forms for the Irvine Aitchison Memorial Fund (IAMF) 2017 programme can be found on the FODO website.

Free eye examinations to continue in Scotland

Community review to build on successful decade of free eye examinations.

Free eye examinations are to continue in Scotland, with a review of community optometry services to make further improvements, Health Secretary Shona Robison announced last week.

The review will consider the role that community eye services play within the wider NHS and whether more can be done to improve the level of care for patients.

It comes a decade on from the successful introduction of free NHS eye examinations, which has seen a 29% increase in the number of tests carried out since 2006.

Over two million eye examinations a year are now carried out in Scotland, providing both a sight test and an eye health check that can identify treatable conditions at an early stage in their development.

Announcing the review, Ms Robison said: “The free NHS eye examination has proven to be hugely successful in encouraging more people to attend their local optometrist – with over a half a million more people a year now getting an eye exam than in 2006.

“Community eye-care services play a vital role in delivering these tests and will become even more important as we face the challenges of an ageing population, with more sight threatening conditions such as diabetes and glaucoma.

“Let me be clear that we are committed to retaining free NHS eye examinations, and the review won’t change this.

"Ten years on, the time is now right to look again at how our community eye-care services are working – particularly in the context of the developments we are making to primary care.

“Many optometrists can now, with the appropriate training, manage the treatment of certain eye conditions and are able to prescribe treatments to patients instead of having to make a GP or hospital referral. The review will consider whether more could be done to make best use of the clinical skills of optometrists, streamlining services for patients.

“We also want to use the opportunity of the review to learn more about which patients are taking up the offer of the free eye examination and whether more can be done to reduce health inequalities by encouraging uptake amongst vulnerable groups or in deprived areas.”

The review group will be chaired by Dr Hamish Wilson, CBE, the current Vice-Chair of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, and made up of a range of clinical and non-clinical professionals and public stakeholders across health and social care.

Dr Wilson said: “I am looking forward to chairing this important and timely review of community eyecare services. I have witnessed the positive impact implementation of the new - and free - eye examination has had for the people of Scotland since its introduction in 2006. I believe that now, ten years on, we have a great opportunity to look at what else our community Optometrists can help deliver to enhance further patient care throughout the country.”

Nicola McElvanney, Chair of Optometry Scotland said: “Since 2006, the profession has demonstrated commitment and desire to deliver the best possible care for patients in Scotland. This has seen a shift in the balance of care which provides more patients with access to care or appropriate triage for eye conditions outside of a hospital or GP setting. This is a major success for patients and the NHS.

“There are existing models of good practice across Scotland; the review provides the opportunity to adopt the best across the country and in doing so, reduce the capacity issues in secondary care. The outcome we are all committed to is one which sees patients being able to access the most appropriate care close to their home, ensuring that only those patients who must been seen in a hospital setting are referred there.”

The review is scheduled to report to Scottish Ministers by the end of the year.

College publishes first ever study comparing spectacles bought online vs in store

Study comparing over 300 pairs of spectacles found participants prefer shop bought specs over those bought online

 A study commissioned by The College of Optometrists found that, when comparing spectacles bought online and those bought and fitted in optometric practices, customers preferred shop bought spectacles.

The study, published in the leading American journal Optometry and Vision Science, found that customers preferred shop-bought spectacles fitted by practice staff, ranking them higher overall than those bought online. Researchers from the University of Bradford and Cardiff University compared 154 spectacles bought online with 155 spectacles from UK optometric practices.  Participants completed a questionnaire on vision, comfort, fit, and how acceptable and safe the spectacles felt and all participants and spectacles were assessed at the University of Bradford eye clinic for clarity of vision, ocular muscle balance and fit and quality of the spectacle frames and lenses.

Mike Bowen, Director of Research for the College of Optometrists, said: “This study is important, not just because it’s the first of its kind, but also because of the rise in online purchasing. It’s important that optometrists explain to patients that someone trained in dispensing, can guide on the shape, fit and appropriateness of a certain pair of spectacles over another, which is particularly important for the elderly. As a sector, we need to prepare for the changing ways in which customers are shopping and ensure that consumers are getting a high quality service from whatever platform they choose to purchase.”

Professor David Elliott, Professor of Clinical Vision Science at the University of BradfordProfessor David Elliott, Professor of Clinical Vision Science at the University of Bradford and principal investigator in the study said: “The results of this research should help patients understand the possible adverse effects of spectacles not being supplied correctly. This is particularly important for older patients wearing bifocals and varifocals, as frail, elderly patients need their multifocal spectacles to be fitted carefully due of the increased risk of falls in this group.”

The key study findings are:

  • Participants preferred shop bought spectacles dispensed by practice staff, ranking them significantly higher overall than those bought online. This was particularly true of more complex prescriptions such as Progressive Addition Lenses (PALs).
  • Researchers found a higher rate of spectacles bought online were classed as unacceptable or unsafe due to incorrect measurements of pupillary distances. When ordering online, pupilary distance is usually measured and supplied by the customer and the measurements can be inaccurate.
  • 79% of participants said that they would purchase their next pair of spectacles from the high street. The remaining 21% that indicated they would purchase their next pair online cited convenience, clarity in pricing, significantly lower prices and the lack of pressure to purchase amongst their reasoning.
  • The average cost of online spectacles was significantly lower than the high street spectacles used in this research.
  • 6% of all study spectacles were classified as unsafe. 78% of spectacles perceived as unsafe came from online suppliers. For 50% of these spectacles, the issue was due to the fit of the frame rather than the accuracy of the lens prescription.
  • Significantly more online spectacles (30%) were classed as unacceptable by participants than practice bought and fitted spectacles (10%), largely due to fit and appearance.

 The study resulted in the below recommendations for optometrists:

  • The dispensing of PALs by online retailers using online estimations of fitting heights and estimated pupillary distance measurements should be accompanied by a warning about the potential danger of falls.
  • Online retailers could improve their services by providing patients with frames to try on at home; ensuring stock matches website information; by encouraging more accurate PD measurements; and by offering a fitting service if not currently providing this service if not currently providing this service.
  • High street practices should ensure patients do not feel rushed or pressured when making purchases, provide clarity with pricing and should allow sufficient time for spectacle frame adjustments. This is also supported by other research published in the College’s journal Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics(3,4).

Details of the study

309 spectacles bought online and in retail shops (where they were dispensed by practice staff), were compared by survey participants. All spectacles were then assessed at the eye clinic of the University of Bradford for participant preference, indication of acceptability and safety (based on fit, appearance, fitting height distance being outside tolerance, amongst others), lens and frame quality and fitting and lens prescription. Preference, indication of acceptability and safety factors were measured by participants, lens and frame quality, fitting and lens prescription were assessed by an experienced dispensing optician at the eye clinic.

To read about  or contribute to the Research Fund, visit the College’s donation page 

Sir Roger Gale MP visits Kent opticians

Sir Roger Gale, MP for Thanet North, visited Sanford Opticians in his constituency earlier this month to find out why regular sight tests are so important in preventing avoidable sight loss and to hear from representatives from the Kent and Medway Local Optical Committee (LOC) about the community eye care services available in optical practices across Kent.

Over 1.8 million people in the UK are living with sight loss and this figure is set to increase by 115% to nearly 4 million people by 2050, largely due to the ageing population. Much of this is preventable through the early detection and treatment of eye problems. Regular sight tests are a simple and practical way to maintain good eye health and look after your eyes.

L to R Charles Greenwood, Kent and Medway Local Optical Committee, Jo Connell, Sanford Opticians and Sir Roger Gale, MP for Thanet NorthAt the visit, Sir Roger met with representatives from the Kent and Medway Local Optical Committee (LOC) and also heard about the greater role local optical practices are playing across the county, by delivering eye care over and above sight tests.

Community optometrists and opticians can deliver high-quality eye care services over and above the sight test by, for example, monitoring stable glaucoma patients in the community and treating minor eye problems. This relieves pressure on hospital eye departments and GP surgeries, and reduces the risk of patients not receiving the care they need.

Practice Owner and Optometrist, Jo Connell, said: “It was great to meet with Sir Roger and talk about the importance of having regular sights tests, not just to determine whether you need glasses, but also to check the health of your eyes and for signs of eye conditions. We also spoke about the greater role community optical practices are playing by delivering some eye care services over and above sight tests in Kent. We look forward to working with Sir Roger to ensure his constituents are able to benefit from as many of these services as possible.”

Commenting on the visit, Sir Roger Gale MP said: “Only those who have lost their sight can really understand what it means to enjoy a faculty that most of us take for granted. My own mother, who was driving until she was nearly 90, has found her mobility and the ability to live a full and active life curtailed as a result of sight loss, and I know the devastating effect it has had on her.

“It is vital that people avail themselves of the optical services available on the basis that prevention is infinitely better than the alternative, which may mean no cure at all.”

Many groups of people are entitled to NHS-funded sight tests. These include those aged 60 and over, all children under 16 and those on low incomes. Optical practices are convenient and offer easy access in the local community. You can visit any practice that is either near where you live or where you work. Optical practices can see NHS patients at times that suit them.

Latest OSCE results announced by the College of Optometrists

The results are in for the College of Optometrists’ latest OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination).

391 candidates sat the OSCE in July – the Scheme for Registration’s final assessment – resulting in a pass rate of 75 per cent, the same pass rate as last July’s cohort.

The OSCE consists of 17 five-minute stations, made up of 16 clinical tasks and a rest station. Each station assesses the candidates’ skills, including history taking, communication, data interpretation, clinical examination and practical skills.

During the OSCE, which took place at the Royal College of General Practitioners, candidates may be tested on any of the stage two elements of competence set out by the General Optical Council. This assessment acts as a final check that competence across the framework has been achieved and maintained.

The College’s Head of Examinations, Joseph Oakley, commented: “Congratulations to the candidates who have now passed their final assessment, and I’d like to welcome them to the profession. Passing the OSCE is the culmination of a lot of hard work and those who have passed should be very proud of all they have achieved during the challenging, but rewarding, pre-registration period. Those who have passed will have demonstrated their competence across the framework and I wish them all the best in their future careers.”

The College has hosted four OSCEs a year since its inception in July 2010.

VISION 2020 UK announce WESC Foundation as a new member organisation

VISION 2020 UK has announced WESC Foundation - Specialist Centre for Visual Impairment, as a new member organisation.

WESC Foundation, formerly the West of England School and College for young people with little or no sight, is a specialist day and residential centre for young people and adults with visual impairment including complex needs in Exeter, Devon.

The centre offers a unique experience for young people and adults with visual impairment, and their commitment is to excellence and innovation at a national and international level.

They provide high-quality education and care that increases learners’ opportunities and raises their expectations.

The addition of the WESC Foundation marks an exciting step for VISION 2020 UK as it expands its portfolio of membership organisations which currently includes 50 professional and public sector organisations and charities, including major eye health professions and sight loss charities.

VISION 2020 UK CEO Mercy Jeyasingham, commented, “We are delighted to confirm the WESC Foundation as the newest VISION 2020 UK member. This membership shows a great commitment to collaborative working, and we anticipate a strong, fulfilling working relationship in the coming years.”

Tracy de Bernhardt Dunkin, WESC Foundation’s CEO, said: “Our membership of VISION 2020 UK will allow us to work collaboratively with other members, and with VISION 2020 UK itself, to improve the future for the young people we work with.”

WESC Foundation is a member of VISION 2020 UK effective immediately.