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The Government's Spring Budget 2017

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has announced his Spring Budget. Below is a summary of the key points relevant to our members: 

Growth and public borrowing 
The Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) has revised up the expected growth of the British economy from 1.7% to 2% in 2017. However, it has revised down the figures for 2018, 2019 and 2020. In addition to this the OBR is expecting public borrowing to be lower in 2016/17-2021/22. 

Health and social care spending 
The Chancellor re-affirmed the Government’s commitment to NHS England’s Five Year Forward View. In addition to this he pledged an additional £100m fund for A&E in England. There will also be an additional £325m to support the implementation of the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STP). The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, will make a further announcement on this. Hammond announced an additional £2bn for social care over the next three years for local authorities in England. This is aimed to help local authorities struggling to adequately fund social care and £1bn will be available in the next financial year. The Government will publish a Green Paper on social care later this year setting out its vision in greater detail. 

Business rates 
A cap on increase of business rates at £50 a month for small business was announced. In addition to this local authorities will be given a £300m fund to deliver discretionary relief for “individual hard cases”. 

The small business relief rate is applicable to businesses where:

  • The property’s rateable value is less than £12,000 (£15,000 from April 2017)
  • From 1 April 2017 one won’t pay business rates on a property with a rateable value of £12,000 or less. For properties with a rateable value of £12,001 to £15,000, the rate of relief will go down gradually from 100% to 0%
  • It is also possible to qualify for small business rate relief if one has two or more properties. However, none of the other properties must have a rateable value above £2,600 (£2,900 from April 2017) and the total rateable value of all properties is less than £20,000 (£28,000 in London).

National Insurance Contribution increase for self-employed 
The Chancellor announced an increase in the National Insurance Contributions (NIC) for self-employed workers. The raise will be by 1% to 10% in total from April 2018 and to 11% in 2019. 

In addition to this, it was announced that the Government will launch a consultation on taxation of benefits in kind this year. 

Other announcements included:

  • the Personal Tax Allowance will be increased to £11,500 for basic-rate taxpayers 
  • the National Living Wage will rise to £7.50 in April
  • a consumer protection Green Paper will be published later this year
  • the Government will publish its Midlands Engine document soon. This will set out the devolution agreement in the Midlands and is likely to be similar to what was agreed with Greater Manchester
  • additional funds for the devolved nations was announced with Scotland receiving £350m, Wales £200m and Norther Ireland £120m
  • increase in registration and deregistration thresholds from 1 April 2017. The VAT registration threshold will increase from £83,000 to £85,000 and the deregistration threshold from £81,000 to £83,000. 
  • £5m to promote ‘returnships’ to help people back into employment after a career break.
  • The introduction of maintenance loans for part-time undergraduates.

The full budget documents are available on the Government’s website.

Our response to NHS England's AIS Review

FODO on behalf of the Optical Confederation has responded to NHS England’s post-implementation review of the Accessible Information Standard (AIS). We have highlighted that the vast majority of practicable and reasonable adjustments were a routine part of care in our sector long before the standard or indeed equalities legislation. It is what operating in a competitive market environment means ie we compete for each and every customer. However we have also raised as a specific problem with the increase in patients, encouraged by some charities, requesting unaffordable BSL interpreters, significantly in excess of the NHS sight test fee. Our response calls on NHS England to put in place either funding or partnership working arrangements so that such services are freely accessible to community optical providers and their patients. We have also reminded NHS England that they have not yet developed their promised guidance on the acceptability of using willing relatives and friends to interpret in optical practice. 

See our full response here.

GOC publishes guidance on professional duty of candour

The General Optical Council (GOC) has published guidance to assist registrants in meeting its standard relating to the professional duty of candour that requires all those working in healthcare to be open, honest and transparent with patients when things go wrong and a patient has suffered physical or psychological harm or distress, or there might be implications for their future care.


Marcus Dye, GOC Head of Education and Standards said, “In our recent Registrant Survey, 86 percent of respondents told us they felt confident in their ability to meet our new Standards of Practice. However it was clear when we consulted on the Standards that registrants wanted more guidance to help them apply the professional duty of candour in practice. Candour is a relatively new concept in healthcare, so it’s not surprising that registrants asked for further help in this area."


“This guidance will help to support our registrants and give them extra confidence in applying the standard relating to the professional duty of candour.”


The guidance on the standards around the professional duty of candour can be found on the GOC website.

EU Court decision gives visually impaired and blind people access to more published works


People who are blind or visually impaired across Europe will have greater access to published works, following a decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 14 February that the European Union (EU) has the power to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty.  

The Treaty, which is strongly supported by the European Coalition for Vision (ECV), is designed to create copyright exceptions for the benefit of visually impaired and blind people. Under the Treaty, government institutions and certain non-profit organisations will be able to produce and distribute published works in alternative formats without the specific authorisation of the rights holder.

The European Parliament is expected to vote on implementation of the Treaty on 22 March 2017. Following the vote, the EU Parliament and EU member states will negotiate compensation schemes, commercial availability and the official registration of authorised distributors.

David Hewlett, Chair of the ECV, said: “This is a huge step forward in equality for partially sighted and blind Europeans, who will benefit from access to the same standard and range of works in alternative formats throughout the EU. We and our partners will continue to urge the executive to implement the Treaty with minimum delay.”


Optical Confederation opens consultation on refractive surgery

The Optical Confederation has launched a consultation on multi-disciplinary professional standards for refractive surgery providers.

The Optical Confederation is seeking responses from the public, patients, clinicians and providers to help shape the new standards that will determine the way eye surgery to correct vision errors is delivered in the UK in the best interests of patients.

The consultation will include patient focus groups (London and Scotland) and an industry consultation event as part of the education programme on Monday 3 April at Optrafair.

You can find out more about the consultation, including downloading copies of the draft standards at the Optical Confederation’s website.

Deadline for responses is Friday 7 April 2017. 

Samantha Peters to stand down as GOC Chief Executive and Registrar

The General Optical Council has announced that its Chief Executive and Registrar, Samantha Peters, will leave the organisation after six years next summer to focus on studying.

Samantha’s last day will be 13 June 2017. She intends to take a significant break from her career, particularly to focus on her PhD in kindness, compassion and altruism. Her PhD research, at Bath University, has a particularly strong focus on the failings in care at Mid-Staffs which prompted the Francis Inquiry.

GOC Chair, Gareth Hadley, said: “We will be sad to see Samantha go but it is a very exciting time for her as she focuses on her studies. The same thoughtful and strategic approach that she took to her role at the GOC will undoubtedly stand her in good stead as she tackles a fascinating, but also highly complex, research project. I look forward to seeing the outcome published; it will make a seminal contribution to future thinking on healthcare.

Her achievements in six years at the GOC are significant. She has overseen the transformation of CET, the introduction of new standards which the professions are really embracing, and great improvements both in our stakeholder engagement and in the efficiency with which we carry out our core regulatory functions. She has also overseen the modernisation of the organisation, including the move to our new fit for purpose office.

During her time here, Samantha spearheaded development of the Council’s values - being responsible, principled and forward thinking. She has embedded those values into how we work as well, leading by example by personifying those values in all she does. We wish Samantha all the best for the future – her successor will have a lot to live up to.

Samantha Peters said, “It is with great sadness that I will say goodbye to the GOC next summer. I am confident though that the organisation is in a great place to meet the significant challenges caused by the rapid pace of technological change in the sector and the need to modernise the education of optical professionals.

“Although my plans for my career break are exciting I will look back on my time at the GOC extremely fondly. In particular it has been a pleasure to work with such a committed team and I wish everyone all the best for the future.”

The GOC will announce a plan to recruit Samantha’s successor in the New Year.

GOC consults on Education Strategic Review

The General Optical Council (GOC) has published a call for evidence to launch its Education Strategic Review.

The main aim of the review is to ensure that education programmes and qualifications leading to GOC registration equip students to meet patients’ future needs, as technological change and the increased prevalence of enhanced services are altering the roles that optometrists and dispensing opticians play in delivering eye care.

The GOC is now seeking views from a wide range of stakeholders – optical professionals and students, education providers, patient representatives, employers, professional bodies, commissioners and fellow regulators; with a view to publishing a statement summarising the responses and setting out the way forward in spring 2017.

Alistair Bridge, GOC Director of Strategy, said: “The Education Strategic Review will be crucial in ensuring that the UK’s system of optical education prepares optical professionals for the roles of the future and therefore serves the best interests of patients and the wider public.

“The optical sector is undergoing major change and we must be forward thinking. Optical professionals will need to be fully equipped to tackle the challenges of the coming decades, working closely with other professionals, particularly ophthalmologists, orthoptists and ophthalmic nurses, as part of a flexible healthcare workforce.

“If we are to make the best possible improvements to the system, it is essential that we hear from a wide range of voices. This is a great opportunity to influence the future direction of the optical professions so I strongly encourage everyone with an interest in eye care to let us know their views.”

The call for evidence is now open and will run until Thursday 16 March 2017. To find out more about the Education Strategic Review and to respond to the consultation, please visit:

Carrying out and implementing the Education Strategic Review is one of the main objectives set out in the GOC’s draft strategic plan for the three years from April 2017 to March 2020. We are also consulting on the draft strategic plan at the moment. The consultation closes on Monday 23 January 2017.

Annual FODO DIT lecture discusses future of Irish optics

FODO Ireland staff met this week with optical students from the Dublin Institute of Technology to discuss the role they will play in the future of Irish optics

Students from the optometry and dispensing optics courses at DIT met with FODO Ireland staff Ann Blackmore and Daniel Carry and Executive Council member Peter McGrath this week to learn about the ongoing changes to the community optical sector in Ireland and the opportunities it presents for those just beginning their careers. 

FODO’s Head of Policy and Strategy, Ann Blackmore, discussed with students the role FODO Ireland plays supporting members and our work with partners across health and social care. 

Ann said: “Significant changes are taking place in community eye health in Ireland and it is important to give optical students a snapshot of where we stand now and how things might change over the coming years. Alongside the move to CORU and the much anticipated outcome of the Primary Eyecare Services Review, there is a much broader context around new community-based models of care and the role technological disruption will play.”

The annual lecture finished with a focus on the Foresight Project, an initiative looking at how advances in consumer and optical technology will bring waves of innovation and change to community healthcare. 

“The Foresight Project looks at technological disruption from a UK perspective but of course it has significant implications for eyecare professionals across Ireland, and indeed Europe,” continued Ann. “It will be important to embrace these changes and opportunities, not shy away from the challenge, a message our young audience of digital natives were fully supportive of.” 

The lecture, which drew a packed audience from the entire student cohort, was followed by a question and answer session and special breakaway session with final year students.  

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.