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Opchat Magazine General NewsGeneral News, January to March 2021




Blackfin guest speaker at universities
Intel AI-Powered Backpack Helps Visually Impaired Navigate World
Specsavers’ first ever optometrist and longest standing ophthalmic director celebrates 35 years of service
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE confirms a GOS sight test fee increase!! The first since 2015
"If relationships were a drug, NICE would mandate their use in every consultation,"
Optoversity challenge raises £7,700 for VCHP
Prof. Peter Shah writes for RCOph on Glaucoma Treatment, "time to transform and reconfigure the service."
Health Secretary – IT innovation can help reduce unnecessary trips to hospital
Specsavers returns to residential care homes for eye tests
Tomorrow 18th March is Social Prescribing Day
A Positive Impact milestone for independents
Slit lamp donation helps community hospital
New Study Links Protein Causing Alzheimer’s Disease With Common Sight Loss
The effect of a pandemic on glaucoma detection rates.A story fit for World Glaucoma Week
Eyecare advice is provided as children go back to school
1.1 billion people live with vision loss and 90% of vision loss is preventable or treatable.
OBITUARY:BERNARD MAITENAZ, "The Clairvoyant"
Save the Date for National Eye Health Week 2021
Students gear up for up for Optoversity challenge on 21 march
West Midlands health and social care teams awarded innovation and improvement funding
David Probert to take on CEO role at University College London Hospitals
Hewlett, Health Analyst for FODO, reflects on the Global Eye Health: vision beyond 2020
Porthcawl optometrist helps ease pressure on the NHS
AIO Challenges the DVLA
AIO calls for Independent Review of the DVLA contract award to Specsavers
Groundbreaking COVID-19 treatments to be fast-tracked through clinical trials
A record 3 million people tested by NHS Test and Trace this reporting week
App designed to help reduce hospital admissions in Midlands
Obituary. Rod Brindle
Scotland to pay £500 windfall bonus to frontline healthcare workers
ILC-UK response to NHS White Paper on NHS long-term plans
Blueprint launched for NHS and social care reform following pandemic
OBITUARY Peter Wood
Specsavers Colleagues complete vaccination course to assist in the big task in Wales
First patient benefits from sight-saving surgery at new Frome eye health clinic and surgical centre
NHS staff targeted by nearly 140,000 malicious emails last year
New and improved patient promise on personalised lenses from Essilor
Clinical evaluation confirms high accuracy of highly mobile LamPORE test
Latest findings from COVID-19 study published: January 2021
GOC sets out its commitment to anti-racism
Essilor launches 2021 multi-pair offer
Optoversity challenge set for 21 march online
Essilor extends ecp loyalty scheme
Drivers should be put in the shade, says research.
Community Champions to give COVID-19 vaccine advice and boost take up by providing over £23 million funding
Irish Eye-care waiting lists increase to 53,000
ESSILOR opens a Best Practice Virtual Showroom
British public urged to play their part in historic vaccine roll out
The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Report on “Ageing: Science, Technology and Healthy Living”
Further New Year's Reflections
New Year’s Honours for those in Optics
Will the end of the pandemic bring forth a new start for Optics UK?
Pharmacists snubbed by Government Leaders over Covid Jabs
Primary eye care during the lockdown
COVID-19 alert level: update from the UK Chief Medical Officers
VCHP Filmed for GSK Impact Award
Entries now open for West Midlands healthcare awards
Read Archived General News from October to December 2020


Blackfin guest speaker at universities

March 2021


Nicola Del Din Blackfin CEO CEO Nicola Del Din lectures at Bocconi University in Milan and British Columbia University in Vancouver

The story of Blackfin reaches the desks of two prestigious universities. Nicola Del Din, the company CEO, recently delivered two lectures, one at Bocconi University in Milan, the other at British Columbia University in Vancouver, Canada.

A remote connection allowed audiences of international students to hear the story of a leading example of Italian manufacturing excellence and ethics in the international eyewear market, directly from its CEO.

Nicola Del Din’s lecture at Bocconi was part of a business management course dedicated to Italian product manufacturers, while the lecture on Blackfin delivered to Canadian university students was part of a series of meetings on Italian creativity, and its global recognition as the ultimate expression of style and culture in the fields of architecture, design and fashion.

“I am truly proud to have been asked to tell the story of our company as an example of authentic made in Italy excellence” – stated Nicola Del Din – “and help these students, from different countries, and therefore from different cultures, understand that even a company from a small mountain town can be on the road to success if it has values and objectives that befit its identity. That’s what Blackfin did”.

Intel AI-Powered Backpack Helps Visually Impaired Navigate World

March 2021

AI Backpack for VIs
Artificial intelligence (AI) developer Jagadish K. Mahendran and his team designed an AI-powered, voice-activated backpack that can help the visually impaired navigate and perceive the world around them. The backpack helps detect common challenges such as traffic signs, hanging obstacles, crosswalks, moving objects and changing elevations, all while running on a low-power, interactive device.

“Last year when I met up with a visually impaired friend, I was struck by the irony that while I have been teaching robots to see, there are many people who cannot see and need help. This motivated me to build the visual assistance system with OpenCV’s Artificial Intelligence Kit with Depth (OAK-D), powered by Intel,” Mr. Mahendran, Institute for Artificial Intelligence, University of Georgia, said in a company news release.

The World Health Organization estimates that globally 285 million people are visually impaired. Meanwhile, visual assistance systems for navigation are fairly limited and range from Global Positioning System-based, voice-assisted smartphone apps to camera-enabled smart walking stick solutions. These systems lack the depth perception necessary to facilitate independent navigation.

“It’s incredible to see a developer take Intel’s AI technology for the edge and quickly build a solution to make their friend’s life easier,” said Hema Chamraj, director, Technology Advocacy and AI4Good at Intel. “The technology exists; we are only limited by the imagination of the developer community.”

The system is housed inside a small backpack containing a host computing unit, such as a laptop. A vest jacket conceals a camera, and a fanny pack is used to hold a pocket-size battery pack capable of providing approximately 8 hours of use. A Luxonis OAK-D spatial AI camera can be affixed to either the vest or fanny pack, then connected to the computing unit in the backpack. Three tiny holes in the vest provide viewports for the OAK-D, which is attached to the inside of the vest.

“Our mission at Luxonis is to enable engineers to build things that matter while helping them to quickly harness the power of Intel AI technology,” said Brandon Gilles, founder and chief executive officer, Luxonis. “So, it is incredibly satisfying to see something as valuable and remarkable as the AI-powered backpack built using OAK-D in such a short period of time.”

The OAK-D unit is a versatile and powerful AI device that runs on Intel Movidius VPU and the Intel Distribution of OpenVINO toolkit for on-chip edge AI inferencing. It is capable of running advanced neural networks while providing accelerated computer vision functions and a real-time depth map from its stereo pair, as well as color information from a single 4k camera.

A Bluetooth-enabled earphone lets the user interact with the system via voice queries and commands, and the system responds with verbal information. As the user moves through their environment, the system audibly conveys information about common obstacles including signs, tree branches and pedestrians. It also warns of upcoming crosswalks, curbs, staircases and entryways.

Specsavers’ first ever optometrist and longest standing ophthalmic director celebrates 35 years of service

March 2021

Ravi Bhardwaj Specsavers Specsavers store partner, Ravi Bhardwaj, has been recognised for 35 years of service. And, as one of the company’s first recruits back in the early 80s, Ravi is also proudly Specsavers’ first ever optometrist and longest serving ophthalmic director.

Ravi’s journey with Specsavers began before founders Dame Mary and Doug Perkins started the business on a ping-pong table in their spare room, after a change in UK regulations allowed professionals to advertise their products and services for the first time.

Now, 35 years on, Ravi (61) is a store partner in Specsavers Reading Broad Street, Earley and Woodley, and looks back fondly on his time with the company, which he said, has allowed him to achieve so much and become a part of his local communities.

Doug Perkins says: ‘After 35 years of service to his community and to Specsavers, he has become a much-admired father figure in the store and in Reading, caring for and developing the skills of hundreds of optometrists and optical employees.’


Ravi says: ‘I can’t believe how quickly the 35 years have gone. I remember asking my sister to help me type out my C.V. 10 different times ahead of sending it out to employers after graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University.

‘Next thing I know, I was called by Doug Perkins in response to a job vacancy looking for an entrepreneurial optician and invited to interview for the role at his home office in Guernsey – and that’s where he and Mary told me about their vision for Specsavers.

‘One month later, I’m staying in a hotel in Bristol with Doug and an architect, organising the opening of the first ever Specsavers store on Bristol Bond Street.’

Although he was excited, Ravi was also nervous at the time. Not only was it his first job out of university, but it was also a new approach to optometry on the high street at the time.
‘It was a big learning curve. Doug and I were working closely together on this store – and we were working non-stop to get the business off the ground. It was a massive effort.

He’d come and stay almost every weekend and help me with testing and running the business.

‘It was tough, but it was really exciting. The local community welcomed an opticians that offered expertise at value for money. From then on, I knew that I wanted to open more stores and that this was a long-term career for me.’

After two years in Bristol, Ravi was offered the opportunity to open up a store in a location of his choice. He opted for Reading due to family ties in the area and a promising reputation as an up and coming town.

Reading Spcesavers


10 years after this, he went on to open Specsavers Earley, followed by Specsavers Woodley five years later.

He says: ‘I couldn’t be more grateful for my time with Specsavers. Being able to open a number of stores in Reading and the surrounding areas over the years has really allowed me to build a life and feel a part of the local communities here.

‘It’s been a pleasure getting to know our customers each day and it gives me the feeling that I belong here.

Ravi is also grateful for the business experience he’s gained.

‘I have to say, Specsavers has been at the forefront of everything I’ve achieved. I’ve been allowed to grow my businesses from seeds to plants and I’ve had the support I needed along the way. There’s always been training available for different career paths and they've helped me always put employees first – that’s really important to me.
‘Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.’

Ravi is proud that his teams have won awards and accreditations over recent years, with the Reading Broad Street team awarded a local retail award, recognised as a Platinum Employer and Lab of the Year by Specsavers internally.

‘I’ve got the best teams working with me and I couldn’t be without them,’ he says. ‘The last year during the pandemic in particular has been incredibly tough, but we’ve got through it as a family.

‘They’ve all looked after each other and gone the extra mile for our local community. They’ve shown me that when people need you the most, you need to be there – and they were there. Now, we’re feeling really optimistic about the future.’

Ravi has celebrated his 35th anniversary alongside his team and was congratulated by the Perkins’ family – even enjoying a video call with Specsavers CEO John Perkins. Ravi said when lockdown restrictions ease and some normality resumes, he’s looking forward to a round on the golf course.

‘I don’t tend to have much free time. But, when I do, I like to play golf. I’m looking forward to getting back onto the course when I’m able to again – I don’t think my handicap will be 18 anymore!’

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE confirms a GOS sight test fee increase!! The first since 2015

March 2021

The Department of Health and Social Care has said it will increase GOS sight test fees by 1.9% from April 2021. The GOS CET allowances and pre-registration supervision grants will also rise by the same percentage.

The fees for GOS sight tests in England were last increased in April 2015 by 1%. Since then the sector has seen five consecutive years with no fee increase, while contractors’ costs have continued to rise.

The OFNC had pressed for urgent action to address the widening gap between NHS sight test fees and inflation, and the relative underfunding of primary eye care compared to other NHS care.

Paul Carroll, OFNC Chair, said: “The 1.9% increase, welcome though it is, does not fully address the erosion of GOS fees by inflation in recent years.”

“After five years without any increase to reflect the rising costs of care, a 1.9% increase in GOS fees now will understandably disappoint a loyal and hard-working sector, which has gone the extra mile in keeping eye care services running over the past year when hospital care was often just not available. Nevertheless, we take it as a signal that the Government and NHS England have at last understood the value of primary eye care and the need to move towards fairer treatment of GOS contractors in the future.”

“We hope this is the first small step on a journey to a properly funded national sight-testing infrastructure to help meet growing eye health need, focus on prevention and deliver more care outside hospital closer to home.”

"If relationships were a drug, NICE would mandate their use in every consultation,"

March 2021

Professor Marshall tells King’s Fund Conference yesterday

Prof Martin Marshall CBE
A collaborative at-scale approach is needed to reform hierarchical relationships between health professionals and patients to build trusting relationships, Professor Martin Marshall CBE, Co-chair of the Personalised Care Institute (PCI), today told delegates at a King’s Fund Conference.

Professor Marshall, who is chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners and was speaking in his role at the PCI, says the evidence supporting trusting relationships is “increasingly convincing” and called for multidisciplinary collaboration and a change in culture while speaking at today’s virtual King’s Fund Conference session on Personalised Care in Practice.

Professor Marshall, said: “If relationships were a drug, NICE would mandate their use in every consultation. The growing evidence that trusting relationships lead to better patient experience, better compliance with medical advice, fewer prescriptions, better clinical outcomes, better clinician satisfaction and even, remarkably fewer deaths, suggests that this investment of time will be very worthwhile.

“High quality training in personalised care often results in a ‘light bulb’ moment for practitioners but this is just the start of the journey. Health and care workers need the opportunity to practice and embed their skills within a supportive system and with a prepared public. A collaborative at-scale approach to training multidisciplinary teams together, including managers and people with lived experience, is the only way to deliver the culture change required.”




The PCI is backed by NHS England and Improvement and is supported by more than 40 health organisations including royal colleges, key professional associations and patient groups. It sets the standards for evidence-based personalised care training, provides an accreditation framework for training providers and commissioners; and is a central learning hub for health and care professional learners.

Professor Marshall said that it was important to help health and care professionals to change the lives of patients by empowering them to have more control over how their care is planned. He said the need was demonstrated by the 2019 patient survey, which revealed that around 40% of people didn’t feel as involved as they wanted to be in decisions.

“This shows that unfortunately, for many of our patients, care doesn’t yet feel personalised; and that’s why it’s important we drive for change,” added Professor Marshall.

In the six months since its national launch, the PCI has created the first ever Personalised Care Curriculum, developed and launched three learning modules and has accredited 11 learning programmes across its flexible eLearning platform. These include Core skills and Shared Decision Making.

Personalised Care Institute Professor Marshall added collaboration was essential, stating: “We don’t want the curriculum to replace those core professional capabilities in curricula that have been developed by professional bodies, though over time we would hope to see some alignment. We want to empower people with a spirit of enquiry to learn and develop their practice further.”

Looking to the year ahead, he added: “We will focus on providing more freely accessible eLearning, podcasts, webinars and resources for all HCPs to learn about personalised care - with specific focus on personalised care in the remote consultation and personalised care approaches post-Covid-19.

“Covid-19 has dramatically changed the way we deliver care to patients and we now have an opportunity to build on what we’ve learnt from the pandemic; ensuring that patients feel more empowered in the future to play a key role in the decision-making process to promote better health and wellbeing.”

Promoting relationship-based care is closely aligned to the PCI’s mission to deliver training for 75,000 HCPs in the next four years. Professor Marshall added: “For multidisciplinary teams, a trusting relationship is as effective an intervention as a scalpel is for a surgeon.

“The PCI provides an opportunity for us to improve the ways in which professional carers and their patients relate to each other to improve health and wellbeing. We have an opportunity we must absolutely seize and we’re ambitious to do so.”

He concluded: “Nobody is suggesting that what we want to achieve will be easy. The post Covid-19 era provides an opportunity for us to think and act differently but also some major challenges in terms of resources and priorities. It’s the opportunities that we must focus on and I feel the PCI has made a great start to the long journey ahead.”


Image left: Professor Martin Marshall, Co-chair of the Personalised Care Institute (PCI) and Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGPs).


Image right:The Personalised Care Institute is helping health and care professionals to change the lives of patients by empowering them to have more control over how their care is planned.

Optoversity challenge raises £7,700 for VCHP

March 2021

Out of the Box Optics’s Optoversity Challenge has raised an impressive £7,700 for Vision Care for Homeless People at Sunday’s online event which saw City University students take top place.

Jenna Martin-Zahid
In second place were students from UWE and third place went to Aston. Testing their knowledge against teams from eleven UK optometry schools, the 80 competing students had a lot of fun with quizzes, multiple choice questions and other challenges: extra points were awarded for speedy answers.

A host of generous optical companies were also able to engage with the students through some of the questions relating to current optical technology, diagnostics and therapeutics. Sponsorship, prizes and support were provided by:




ABDO College, Alcon, Altacor, Association of Optometrists, Birmingham Optical; Booth & Bruce, Brain Tumour Charity, College of Optometrists, Cooper Vision; Essilor, Haag-Streit, Heine, Hoya, IbisVision, iseek, Keeler; Lenstec, Locumkit, Millmead, Norville, RNIB; Scope Ophthalmics, Thea Pharma, Tokai, Topcon; VISUfarma, Volk Optical and Wolfe Eyewear

Out Of The Box Optics was delighted to top last year’s sum raised for VCHP – by more than £2,000, as North London optom Karmelo Modina who created the event, in partnership with

Gajan Singh, said, “Optoversity has proved to be a fantastic way to bring together optometry students and to help prepare them for working life in the best way possible. It has been fantastic to have even more of the optometry schools taking part this year.”

Vision Care for Homeless People - which will be re-opening its clinics as soon as it is safe to do so with rigorous PPE and patient and volunteer protection – has already allocated the funds, as General Manager, David Brown said, “Mindful of the need to keep everything as clean as we can in the clinics we are moving to tablets for patient records. It will reduce the paper being passed around and is a far better way for us to work. It is a tremendous boost to our efficiency…thank you Out Of the Box Optics!”

Mohammed Farin

Mohammed Farin, who came top in the first year category, (pictured right) said , “Optoversity was a dynamic and thrilling event. I’d like to thank everyone who came together to organise it and importantly to Vision Care for Homeless People who provide eyecare to those that need it the most.

“I never thought I would win the quiz so to see my name rise to the top at the end came as a surprise! With the ret and ophthalmoscope, kindly provided by Keeler, I can progress within my journey of becoming an amazing optometrist!”

Pictured is Jenna Martin-Zahid, 3rd year student at City University who was part of the winning team. Jenna (top left) also won a Volk digital widefield lens, donated by Birmingham Optical.

Prof. Peter Shah writes for RCOph on Glaucoma Treatment, "time to transform and reconfigure the service."

March 2021


In a blog he writes a piece for the college for World Glaucoma Week. Titled "Glaucoma, Isolation and Kindness: the role opthamologists play in creating a brighter world "

His reflections on this year’s theme The world is bright, save your sight!, highlight the need for ophthalmologists to support patients with the emotional impact glaucoma.

Peter is writing from the perspective of a Consultant Ophthalmologist, but the messages within this piece extend beyond Ophthalmology and will resonate with many other medical professionals who are facing the challenge of delivering care when there is a ‘demand-capacity mismatch’.

“As we emerge from the grasp of the COVID pandemic, many of us are faced with the problem of delivering glaucoma care to unprecedented numbers of patients with glaucoma.

The national demand-capacity mismatch in glaucoma care has been well articulated by many, including members of our own Royal College. Such is the scale of the daunting task ahead of us that many Consultant Ophthalmologists understandably feel a little lost. Together with our teams, we will need to transform and reconfigure glaucoma care with some speed.

As we do this, there will be an opportunity to harness technology and the skills of other Allied Health Professionals.

Supporting patients with the emotional impact of Glaucoma
“It’s a lonely disease, glaucoma.” The impact of glaucoma on quality of life and the activities of daily living is well known, as is its effect on the mental health of our patients.

There are a number of charities that can provide additional support for glaucoma patients, these include:

Glaucoma UK aims to end preventable glaucoma sight loss. They offer information about Glaucoma , a helpline and Glaucoma support groups.
Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), is one of the UK’s leading sight loss charities and the largest community of blind and partially sighted people. They offer advice and have a helpline that patients can call.
See ability provide extraordinary support and champion better eye care for people with learning disabilities and autism, many of whom have sight loss.
Thomas Pocklington Trust supports blind and partially sighted people to live the life they want to lead and support grant applications that reflect our core strategy strands.

Recognising the impact of isolation

As we reconfigure glaucoma services across the UK, there is an opportunity for us to re-connect with our patients as they emerge from their isolation.

It has indeed been a very lonely journey for many patients during the pandemic, and for many health professionals too. There are few who have not personally experienced the terrible consequences of this disease.

The impact of isolation and loneliness on mental health and wellbeing is well recognised.

Organisations that provide information and support include:

The NHS
The Samaritans
Mind
Putting people at the heart of service reconfiguration
We have a chance now to put patients and healthcare professionals at the heart of service reconfiguration – we have a chance to bridge the gap.

The kindness we show our patients and workforce as we emerge from the pandemic will take us a long way on the difficult journey ahead. We are blessed to be in a profession that enables us to preserve the gift of sight, and in so doing have a responsibility to ensure that it is based on a strong foundation of kindness.”

Professor Peter Shah (BSc (Hons), MB ChB, FRCOphth, FRCP Edin, MA (Distinction), is Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham Institute for Glaucoma Research, Institute of Translational Medicine, UHB. Visiting Professor at University College London, Honorary Professor of Glaucoma, Centre for Health & Social Care Improvement, University of Wolverhampton and President of the UK and Eire Glaucoma Society,

Health Secretary – IT innovation can help reduce unnecessary trips to hospital

March 2021

Matt Hancock has spoken about the role technology will play in the future of healthcare in England.

At the event, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, said:

This has been a difficult time for us all, but what we have found though is that the power of using the best available technology and developing new technology quickly has proved its worth – saving lives and keeping our health and care service standing at a time when it was under unbelievable strain like never before.

Let’s think of some examples. Perhaps the one that touches the public most of all is that GP surgeries could keep operating remotely, because of the huge strides that have been made in telemedicine and then were made in the pandemic.

Getting iPads into care homes to make sure people could stay in contact with their loved ones, and we built on that digital infrastructure to make sure the testing and then vaccination programmes have been able to operate in a seamless way. And ultimately the data is at the heart of both of those programmes. Testing is merely the discovery of new data.

Commenting on Electronic Eyecare Referral Systems (EeRS), he said that NHSX had started the process of allowing “images to flow from high-street opticians to ophthalmology clinics”, which would “mean quicker and more accurate advice for patients, and they will reduce unnecessary trips to hospital”.

The Health Secretary added: “I want to see much more of this big thinking about how we can use technology to fundamentally transform care.”

Review his speech here

Specsavers returns to residential care homes for eye tests

March 2021

Care home residents who have missed out on eye tests during the pandemic are once again able to access Specsavers home visits service with the rollout of the government vaccination programme.

Approximately 418,000 people live in care homes in the UK1. This is 4% of the total population aged 65 years and over, rising to 15% of those aged 85 or more. According to Laing Buisson (2018) there are 11,109 care homes for older people and those living with dementia. Of these, 42% (4,632) were registered nursing homes.

Demand for the service has significantly increased over the last month and one domiciliary optometrist delighted to get back out and see her customers is Julie Benson.
Julie, who covers the Bournemouth region says: ‘I have been really concerned about some of my elderly or vulnerable customers over the last year, as they rely on their vision to help them avoid accidents in the home and keep them safe.’

She continues: ‘Research2 by Specsavers shows that nearly half of the population (42%) has experienced sight deterioration since March 2020. I’m acutely aware of the impact this has on my elderly, vulnerable customers’ lives. Poor sight often means they can’t enjoy their usual hobbies, which can make them feel isolated from those around them and stops them seeing their loved ones on a video call.’

Lisa Gascogine, manager at Merlin Park care home in Gosport echoes Julie’s views and says: ‘The Specsavers team will be visiting us shortly to see our residents now that we’ve had our first batch of vaccinations. We know how important this service is because it’s the little things that matter a lot to our residents – being able to watch their favourite television programme, enjoy the crossword and read a book or letter from a family member.’

At home visits

Although care home visits needed to be put on hold, Specsavers teams were able to carry out home eye tests throughout lockdown to help those unable to leave home. This is something that has been a lifeline for many.

One of the customers who benefitted from the service, is 65-year-old John Morgan. Mr Morgan was unable to leave home due to his heart failure and micro-phobic anxiety and so the Specsavers team in Manchester were able to visit him at home.

Gaynor Morgan, Mr Morgan’s wife, says: ‘My husband was complaining that he was having trouble seeing the TV. I booked an appointment at Specsavers, who came to the house.
‘John was fitted with a new pair of glasses which have improved the quality of his life so much as he can finally see the TV properly. The service was absolutely top notch and we felt safe the whole time as the team had full PPE on and their hygiene procedures were impeccable.’

Julie concludes: ‘I have visited a few residential care homes recently and what struck me was how important human interaction is particularly for this group who have been shielding for a long time. They were happy to see me in my professional capacity, but the fact that they were seeing a different face from the outside world clearly made a big impact. It has been a very humbling experience.’

Tomorrow 18th March is Social Prescribing Day

March 2021

The National organisation for the Personalised Care Institute (PCI) outlines the PCI’s stance, including a call for embedding social prescribing throughout health and social care to help rebuild communities post COVID-19.

Speaking ahead of International Social Prescribing Day, Dr Bogdan Chiva Giurca, an ambassador of the Personalised Care Institute and founder of the awareness raising event, said:

Dr Bogdan Chiva Giurca,“In a year where our lives and communities have been turned upside down by Covid-19, it’s been heartening to see the vital role that social prescribing has played in helping those most in need to stay connected, active and well.

“Now, as we face up to the devastating impact of the pandemic on our physical and mental health and start to rebuild our communities, we must ensure that we fully embed social prescribing - and other aspects of personalised care - into the NHS.

“Social prescribing enables GPs, nurses and other health and care professionals to refer people to a range of local non-clinical services - think choirs, gardening groups or dance classes - and the evidence shows that it can have a really positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing.



“As our society moves towards the long-talked-about ‘new normal’ these kinds of activities will be vital to rebuilding people’s confidence, self-esteem and happiness, which all contribute significantly to how well a person feels.

“The theme of this year’s International Social Prescribing Day is ‘listen, support, connect’ and I’d like to invite all health and care professionals - many of whom are now working to embed personalised care into their daily conversations and link workers into their teams - to take this opportunity to learn even more about this growing grassroots movement.

“Personalised care and social prescribing provide an opportunity for us all to change how we approach patient conversations, to meet our patients half way by co-designing the right support for them and to take advantage of the many incredible groups, initiatives and projects that we have in our communities. By working together as a collective to listen, support and connect, we can overcome the adversity we are now facing and have a huge impact on the physical and mental health of our patients.”

To find out more, follow the hashtag #SocialPrescribingDay or visit the Personalised Care Institute website or the Social Prescribing Network website .

A Positive Impact milestone for independents

March 2021

Positive Impact has launched its first ever catalogue to help independents to differentiate and to highlight its expanding range of products and services.

Positive Impact Catalogue The new catalogue is being distributed to 600 independents this week and will also be available as a flipbook on the company’s website.

The catalogue features SynergEyes and VTI NaturalVue contact lenses, products for dry eye management and diagnosis, ancillary products, personal protective equipment (PPE) and the GLASKLAR lens cleaner patient loyalty system.

The book includes the company’s latest launches, the NuLids electronic eyelid cleaning device and Purifeyes, which is seen as a potential game-changer for eyelid margin hygiene, especially for contact lens wearers.

“New products and services are important for every independent’s business to thrive, especially during the most challenging 12 months most of us have ever known,” said Positive Impact’s marketing and professional services director, Nick Atkins.

“In recent years we have significantly expanded our portfolio, most recently with Purifeyes, a new ocular and periocular antimicrobial solution. As a result, it became apparent that there was a need to present everything in one definitive catalogue.”

Since 2008 Positive Impact has introduced new products and services from some of the biggest names in the optical industry. In more recent years the company started to discover innovative new products which it wanted to distribute in its own right. This began with GLASKLAR in 2013, followed by the company’s first foray into the dry eye arena in 2015. Since then, Positive Impact has expanded its dry eye portfolio and recently became the exclusive distributor for the well-known Eye Doctor range.

“Being an independent business, we are committed to bring a range of products and support services that help protect the sales of independent practices,” Mr Atkins added.

“We firmly believe that we not only have unique, differentiated and very superior products to our competition, but also commit to not making them available in the chains.

“Using the products in our new catalogue will not only differentiate independents but help protect their business too,” he concluded.

Slit lamp donation helps community hospital

March 2021

A Bicester opticians has donated a brand new slit lamp to the eye department at Brackley Community Hospital.

Bicester Slit Lamp Donation
Sarah Marshall, store director at Specsavers Bicester, gave a talk to Brackley Rotary Club where she heard about the fundraising efforts to help build a community hospital and medical centre in the town. An eye department was going to be included as part of the facility so, in Autumn 2020 when the building was almost complete, Sarah got in touch to ask if there was any equipment they might need.

‘We’ve been part of the local community for almost 25 years, and if there is an opportunity for us to be able to help make sure local people have access to the very best eye care, we’re only too happy to lend a hand,’ says Sarah. ‘The new hospital is a fantastic facility and will be of huge benefit to those who use it.

‘When I got in touch to ask if we could help in any way, I was told that a slit lamp was a piece of equipment that the eye department would need and I was delighted to present it on behalf of the store. Together with our NHS partners locally, we’re passionate about making sure people have access to ophthalmology services and are sure the slit lamp will make a difference.’



‘We’re extremely grateful to Specsavers for their generous donation,’ says Brackley Community Hospital 2020 Trust treasurer, Paul Bennett. ‘This invaluable piece of equipment will be installed in the Wellington Suite and used by the consultants coming to Brackley.’

New Study Links Protein Causing Alzheimer’s Disease With Common Sight Loss

March 2020

Source: University of Southampton

Newly published research has revealed a close link between proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease and age-related sight loss. The findings could open the way to new treatments for patients with deteriorating vision and through this study, scientists believe they could reduce the need for using animals in future research into blinding conditions, according to a University of Southampton, UK, news release.

Amyloid beta (Ab) proteins are the primary driver of Alzheimer’s disease but also begin to collect in the retina as people get older. Donor eyes from patients who suffered from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness amongst adults in the UK, have been shown to contain high levels of Ab in their retinas.

This new study, published in the journal Cells, builds on previous research which shows that Ab collects around a cell layer called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), to establish what damage these toxic proteins cause RPE cells.

The research team exposed RPE cells of normal mouse eyes and in culture to Ab. The mouse model enabled the team to look at the effect the protein has in living eye tissue, using noninvasive imaging techniques that are used in ophthalmology clinics. Their findings showed that the mouse eyes developed retinal pathology that was strikingly similar to AMD in humans.

“This was an important study which also showed that mouse numbers used for experiments of this kind can be significantly reduced in the future,” Dr. Arjuna Ratnayaka, a Lecturer in Vision Sciences at the University of Southampton, who led the study, said in the news release. “We were able to develop a robust model to study AMD-like retinal pathology driven by Ab without using transgenic animals, which are often used by researchers the field. Transgenic or genetically engineered mice can take up to a year and typically longer, before Ab causes pathology in the retina, which we can achieve within two weeks. This reduces the need to develop more transgenic models and improves animal welfare.”

The investigators also used the cell models, which further reduced the use of mice in these experiments, to show that the toxic Ab proteins entered RPE cells and rapidly collected in lysosomes, the waste disposal system for the cells. Whilst the cells performed their usual function of increasing enzymes within lysosomes to breakdown this unwanted cargo, the study found that around 85% of Ab still remained within lysosomes, meaning that over time the toxic molecules would continue to accumulate inside RPE cells.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that once lysosomes had been invaded by Ab, around 20 percent fewer lysosomes were available to breakdown photoreceptor outer segments, a role they routinely perform as part of the daily visual cycle.

Dr. Ratnayaka added, “This is a further indication of how cells in the eye can deteriorate over time because of these toxic molecules collecting inside RPE cells. This could be a new pathway that no-one has explored before. Our discoveries have also strengthened the link between diseases of the eye and the brain. The eye is part of the brain and we have shown how Ab which is known to drive major neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease can also causes significant damage to cells in retina.”

The researchers hope that one of the next steps could be for anti-amyloid beta drugs, previously trialled in Alzheimer’s patients, to be re-purposed and trialled as a possible treatment for age-related macular degeneration. As the regulators in the USA and the European Union have already given approval for many of these drugs, this is an area that could be explored relatively quickly.

The study may also help wider efforts to largely by-pass the use of animal experimentation where possible, so some aspects of testing new clinical treatments can transition directly from cell models to patients.

This research was funded by the National Centre for the Replacement Refinement & Reduction of animals in research (NC3Rs). Dr Katie Bates, Head of Research Funding at the NC3Rs said: ‘This is an impactful study that demonstrates the scientific, practical and 3Rs benefits to studying AMD-like retinal pathology in vitro.’

The effect of a pandemic on glaucoma detection rates.A story fit for World Glaucoma Week

March 2021

Glaucoma Stas from Specsavers

Specsavers data is helping to demonstrate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on glaucoma care, in the lead up to World Glaucoma Week (7-13 March).

It is estimated that more than half of people (55%) in the UK are overdue their sight test - which could be putting their eye health in jeopardy. Specsavers predicts that around 6 million of these people missed out on their eye test due to the pandemic . This means that changes in the nation’s eyes aren’t being detected and many sight-threatening problems like glaucoma aren’t being picked up.

Specsavers has shared figures from its Clinical Outcomes Report to help Glaucoma UK and Wilmington Healthcare produce an infographic on how the pandemic has impacted glaucoma care. This shows a 66% drop in glaucoma referrals between 2019 and the same period in 2020.

Giles Edmonds, Specsavers clinical services director, says: ‘It is concerning for us as optometrists that so many people have missed their eye test due to the pandemic.

‘We identified 66% fewer cases of suspected glaucoma in 2020 than the year before. When you consider that our optometrists perform almost half of all eye tests across the UK, this gives a good indication into how much glaucoma referrals will have decreased as a whole, which is an extremely worrying statistic.’

‘This data underlines the importance of community optometrists in preventing avoidable blindness by early glaucoma detection and management. OCT only improves our ability to do this, which is why we recommend that patients over 25 have an OCT scan.’

He adds: ‘As glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world and it is often symptomless, we are encouraging people (especially those at higher risk) to make sure they have an eye examination).’

More than 700,000 people in the UK are estimated to have glaucoma - and this is predicted to increase by 44% by 2035 . Yet, because its gradual onset 50% of glaucoma cases go undetected .

On their website, Glaucoma UK says: ‘The missing referrals will need to be fitted into glaucoma clinics, which are also trying to manage normal workload as well as catch up on cancelled or postponed appointments for those already diagnosed with glaucoma.’

Karen Osborn, Chief Executive at Glaucoma UK adds: ‘Two in every 100 people over 40 have the disease, and 10% of people over 75 are also affected. Glaucoma is often symptomless, so if people are not having routine eye tests, they may have the disease and not even know it.’

Almost all Specsavers stores are fitted with OCT (optical coherence tomography) machines which allows optometrists to detect glaucoma up to four years earlier than traditional techniques.

Eyecare advice is provided as children go back to school

March 2021

Parents are concerned about their child's time spent on screens but view new shoes as ‘more important’ than eye tests for back to school.  

Research1 by Specsavers shows that for 69% of parents, ensuring their child has new shoes is at the top of the list when sending them back to the classroom. This is followed by new uniform and PE kits (66%) and new stationary (25%).

Much further down the parental priority list are general health care appointments, such eye tests (24%), dental check-ups (12%) and seeing the GP (11%).  

During lockdowns children have been spending as much as six hours a day on smartphones and other digital devices2 - it’s been estimated that we’ve logged an extra five billion hours3 online since our daily lives went virtual due to the pandemic.

Children spending too much time in front of screens is a concern for most parents (87%)1, yet they are unsure how often their child should be taking a break from their devices - more than a quarter (28%) mistakenly think it should be every hour1 rather than following the 20:20:20 rule.

Advice provided

To address this, Specsavers has embarked on a campaign to educate people about taking breaks away from screens to rest their eyes. Clinical services director, Giles Edmonds, says: ‘As optometrists know, many children do not take adequate breaks from their screens, which can cause eye strain and potentially damage their eye health, so they may notice a difference in their vision when they go back to full-time education in school.

‘We're advising that children spend as much time as possible outdoors to try to reduce the onset of myopia (short-sightedness). The prevalence of myopia in children aged between 10–16 years has more than doubled during the last 50 years, and children are becoming myopic at a younger age4.’

‘The outdoors also provides many things for us to look at, changing our focal distance rather than being fixated on a single object for a prolonged period’. says Mr Edmonds. ‘In fact, studies have shown that if children just spend an extra hour outdoors a week, then their risk of developing myopia (short-sightedness) drops by 14%5.’  

Eye strain

Mr Edmonds says: ‘Eyes can often become strained when focusing on screens for a long period which, while not usually serious, can be particularly uncomfortable.  Similarly, if children’s eyes are fixated on a single object for a long period of time, especially small digital screens, this can also cause eye strain. Symptoms to look out for include eye discomfort, headaches, sore or tired eyes, difficulty focusing, dry eyes, blurred or double vision, and increased sensitivity to light. We advise students to follow the 20:20:20 rule, encouraging children to look away from their screen or white board every 20 minutes at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds, as this helps to relax the eye muscles.  

Paediatric eyecare training for optometrists and dispensing opticians

Specsavers clinicians can update their knowledge about paediatric eyecare at the Spring Professional Development conference this April.

Four sessions each with three peer review CT points, includes a peer discussion with case-based exploration of decision-making in paediatric eyecare based on recent practice experience, with presenters including Judy Lea who is an HES optometrist involved in the delivery of paediatric clinics.

Richard Edwards from the OCCS will also present a peer discussion about how clinicians can learn from complaints about paediatric care, on 13 and 19 April. This discussion session is designed to increase registrants' ability to manage complaints regarding paediatric eyecare in an effective and empathetic way, to avoid the unnecessary escalation of complaints.

[1]  1,000 parents with child aged 5-16, who have worn glasses since they were children; with children who wear glasses (500) and children who don’t wear glasses (500) - 7.9.2020 - 17.9.2020 
[2] https://nypost.com/2020/04/23/screen-time-for-kids-explodes-during-coronavirus-crisis-study/ 
[3] https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-coronavirus-surge-in-screen-time-boosts-chip-makers-11588066203 
[4] https://www.college-optometrists.org/the-college/policy/myopia-management.html 
[5] https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/outdoor-time-good-your-eyes 

1.1 billion people live with vision loss and 90% of vision loss is preventable or treatable.

March 2021

There are 1.1 billion people globally with vision loss and 2 to 3 billion more people need ongoing access to services to optimise their vision and ability to function in society.

Millions more need ongoing access to services every year to prevent vision loss and restore well-being.

Now from the The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) Friends of Vision Group has launched the Vision Atlas at a UN Friends of Vision Group meeting on 24 February.

The Vision Atlas allows you to compare UK eye care data with other countries.

The Atlas estimates that 6.4% of the UK population has a vision loss.

It also provides data on cataract surgery, with an estimated 519,321 procedures each year, with the UK ranking 6 out of 120 countries.

Some high-level workforce data shows there are an estimated 3,000 ophthalmologists and 14,308 optometrists in the UK.

Interact with the Vision Atlas

OBITUARY: BERNARD MAITENAZ, "The Clairvoyant"

February 2021

Bernard MaitenazThe Chairwoman of Silmo Paris, Amélie Morel, and the Silmo executive board were sad to learn of the decease of Bernard Maitenaz, an extraordinary figure whose contributions to eye health are acclaimed by the entire profession.

Lively and open-minded, a pioneer and a visionary, Bernard Maitenaz was always eager to share his knowledge, speak with colleagues, and take an enthusiastic view of the future.

He was close to the industry, and he was close to Silmo.

From the launch of the first Silmo d’Or awards in 1994, he worked diligently as a panel member, bringing his keen expertise to the “lenses” category.

When the Silmo Academy was founded in 2010, he assiduously participated in the Scientific Council, serving the vision sciences with acumen and clairvoyance. An enthusiastic researcher who was always looking forward, Bernard Maitenaz was sincerely involved in our industry, and he will be sorely missed by the professionals who were fortunate to work by his side.

The whole Silmo team pays tribute to this great man.

Save the Date for National Eye Health Week 2021

February 2021

Eye Health UK announces National Eye Health Week 2021 (NEHW) will run from 20 to 26 September.

The Week will aim to raise the profile of optics as it encourages the public to be ‘eye aware’ with a series of initiatives inspiring greater up-take of routine sight tests and highlighting the role healthy lifestyles play in preventing avoidable sight loss.

Despite the obvious challenges of 2020, last year’s campaign raised optics up the public health agenda with Google searches around ‘eye health’ peaking during the Week – up more than 20 per cent on the next highest point in the year.

NEHW 2020 was also effective in motivating behaviour change. According to independent consumer research, three quarters (74%) of those who saw, heard or read advice about eye health during the Week said it had prompted them to act when it comes to looking after their vision and eye health.

David Cartwright, chair of Eye Health UK said: “National Eye Health Week is an important occasion for optics and has huge potential for the sector to come together to create a premier health event. We’re urging everyone with an interest in vision and eye health to get involved. The Week is a great platform for public health promotion that can benefit us all.”

Anyone interested in getting involved can register via the website www.visionmatters.org.uk.

Supporters are kept up to date with regular bulletins to their inbox and free supporter resources.

Students gear up for up for Optoversity challenge on 21 march

February 2021

Bradford Opt University Team
Optometry students are gearing up for Out of the Box Optoversity Challenge, when they will test their knowledge against others in the same year group across the UK at the online event: Sunday 21st March.

This popular annual challenge has already attracted entrants from all year groups with prizes generously donated by Keeler, Heine, Wolf Eyewear, Hoya, Lenstec, Norville, Topcon, Millmead, Alcon, Booth & Bruce, Kirk & Kirk, Jonny Goggles, ABDO, Scope and The Crazy Optom.

The exciting challenge has a strong charity element to it with funds raised each year for Vision Care for Homeless People, through student sponsorship. As teams have already signed up from Anglia, Aston, Bradford (pictured left) , Cardiff, City, Glasgow, Lancashire, Manchester, Plymouth, Ulster and UWE the charity hopes it will be a bumper year for fundraising.

Already several optical suppliers are sponsoring the event with funds going directly to the charity – thanks to Altacor, Haag Steit, Visufarma, Locumkit and Ibis Vision.

Organised by Out Of The Box Optics this exciting event raised £5,500 for the charity last year and in 2019 the sum was £3,600.

Harinder Paul, VCHP Trustee, is encouraging everyone to become involved and says, "It is an exciting day and we are looking to draw the whole optical community together. Our terrific supporters have put up some great prizes for the best students – equipment and wonderful sunglasses, particularly.”

The day’s challenges are likely to involve an ocular disease picture quiz, multiple choice questions, practical exams and anagrams to unscramble optical terminology. This year’s Zoom event starts at 10-11.30am for year one students; Year 2 from 12-1.30pm and years 3 and 4 from 2-3.30pm.

“Everyone learns a lot at this event – particularly working to a deadline. There is still nearly a month to go so any more teams are welcome and any business wanting to support with sponsorship should get in touch,” added Harinder.

North London optom Karmelo Modina who created the event, in partnership with Gajan Singh, said “Optoversity has proved to be a fantastic way to bring together optometry students and to help prepare them for working life in the best way possible.”

Students can enter via the website and businesses that would like to sponsor the day please contact:

alison.gordon@vchp.org.uk

www.outoftheboxoptics.co.uk

West Midlands health and social care teams awarded innovation and improvement funding

February 2021

Six health and social care teams from across the West Midlands have been awarded up to £10,000 in funding from the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN). The Safety Innovation & Improvement Fund will provide each team with funding to support the spread or adoption of an innovation or improvement resulting in improvements for patients and service users.

Successful projects, which will be awarded the funding, includes Self-testing devices for anti-coagulation patients from The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, which aim to empower a larger cohort of patients to self-manage their chronic long-term conditions.

Birmingham Women’s & Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust will be working to improve the safety of intravenous drug therapy with its Reducing incidence and harm of extravasations project. The Trust has also been selected to receive funding for an additional project, Induction of labour co-ordinator which will establish an effective process for inducing labour while reducing risk to expectant mothers.

New Cross CALM: Civility, Appreciation and Learning in Maternity from The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, will be working to create an environment of high psychological safety and continuous learning in its maternity department.

Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust’s Learning from Excellence QI initiative will use Learning from Excellence and QI approaches to help staff to feel valued and assist them with identifying improvements in patient care.

Finally, funding to Wye Valley NHS Trust Care homes aspiration pneumonia prevention service (CHAPPS) will enable them to deliver training resources and provide support to care homes in Herefordshire, raising staff awareness of the contributory factors for contracting pneumonia.

Jodie Mazur, Head of Patient Safety at the WMAHSN, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer vital funding to these worthy applicants working in the health and social care sector across the West Midlands.

“The Safety Innovation and Improvement Fund is a fantastic opportunity for the staff working in these teams to access funds and support which will assist them in making improvements for their patient and service users.”

Each of the six health and social care teams will be able to use the funding to test and refine their projects, spread the innovations to additional sites or work in partnership with one or more other sites in the region.

Karl Emms, Extravasation Project Lead & Lead Nurse for Patient Safety at Birmingham Women’s & Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “On behalf of BWC and the Extravasation Project Team, I’d like to thank the WMAHSN for this fantastic opportunity and support. We are excited to be able to improve the safety of IV therapy for our women and children as it’s such a key aspect of their care.”

Maddy Roberts, CHAPP Service and Project Lead at Wye Valley NHS Trust, added: “The funds allocated to us represent a massive boost to the planned intervention as they will pay for resources such as educational leaflets, dysphagia cups for care homes, and laminated posters for staff to remind them how to minimise risk for infection.”

To find out more about the Safety Innovation & Improvement Fund, click here

David Probert to take on CEO role at University College London Hospitals

February 2021

David Probert Moorfields David Probert, chief executive at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, has announced today that he is to leave his role to take up a new position as chief executive at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) in the late summer.

During his almost five year tenure at Moorfields, David has been instrumental in leading a number of important initiatives for the trust, including laying the foundations for Oriel, a pioneering new eye-care research, education and treatment centre in partnership University College London (UCL), driving forward digital innovation and securing a strong financial position for the organisation.

Announcing his decision, David Probert, said: “I have been exceptionally proud and honoured to be part of such a world-leading institution like Moorfields.

“I am immensely grateful to everyone I have worked with at Moorfields, your dedication and commitment to delivering the best possible eye care to our patients has been humbling.

“It has been a great privilege to serve as your chief executive and a personal pleasure to work alongside you all. However, as we begin to rebuild our services following the pandemic and look to the future as we begin to develop a new five-year strategy, I feel that now is the right time for me to move on and to entrust the legacy of Moorfields to a new chief executive.”

Commenting on the announcement, Tessa Green, chairman at Moorfields, added: “David has spent his entire career serving the NHS. Throughout his time at Moorfields, he has demonstrated a clear commitment and passion to ensuring our patients get access to the very best eye-care they deserve both now and, thanks to Oriel our plans for world-class, modern treatment facility, for the future too.

“Under his stewardship, Moorfields has continued to maintain a position of real strength both financially and in terms of our clinical reputation for delivering cutting edge eye-care. David has also been instrumental in ensuring Moorfields continues to drive forward outstanding research through our partnership with the Institute of Ophthalmology at UCL, as well as building a strong executive leadership team. These are significant achievements and I am in no doubt that his experience and knowledge will serve both patients and staff at UCLH well.

“David will be missed by all of us here at Moorfields and we wish him well for the future. The work to appoint his successor will begin immediately.”

Hewlett, Health Analyst for FODO, reflects on the Global Eye Health: vision beyond 2020

February 2021

In 2020 the European Coalition for Vision wrote to political leaders across Europe to mark the culmination of the VISION 2020 global initiative to eliminate avoidable sight loss. Globally progress had been made, but there was still a long way to go.

This week The Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health: vision beyond 2020 was published, highlighting just now much more we must do, with over a billion people estimated to have a vision impairment in 2020. This includes 596 million people estimated to have a distance vision impairment and a further 510 million uncorrected presbyopia.

Today refractive error remains the major cause of moderate and severe vision impairment (MSVI), affecting 157 million individuals compared with 83 million adults suffering from cataract, 6 million AMD, 4 million glaucoma and 3 million with diabetic retinopathy.

For high-income countries like ours, the enormity of the numbers may conceal some major policy successes of the 20th and 21st centuries. In the UK, access to ophthalmic eye care and vision correction is so ubiquitous and normalised that they are taken for granted and go unrecognised by the public and policymakers. Yet these are major public health achievements. We overlook and neglect the value of these at our peril.

This bedrock of access, sight-testing and case-finding, which thousands of dedicated optometrists and DOs in primary eye care deliver every day, means that we can now concentrate on prevention and earlier intervention for glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and other eye pathologies.

In the UK, the primary eye care sector delivers 20 million sight tests a year (to a third of the entire population), with 70% funded by the NHS for the most vulnerable, those on low incomes and older people. There is no need for anybody in the UK to go without refractive correction, although we still have some way to go to improve access for some communities and groups.

It is pleasing to see the UK health services beginning to tackle access issues for people with learning disabilities and autism, for example. However, there is still a long way to go to ensure homeless people can access the NHS services to which they are entitled. Simple contractual proposals have been around for some time but are caught up in the prioritisation systems of NHS bodies.

Cataract treatment is also a major success and widely accessible in high-income countries. Although we have seen clumsy and non-evidence-based rationing attempts in England from time to time, today we perform cataract surgery on a massive scale in both the NHS and private sectors. So normalised is this that one must begin to wonder whether most cataract surgery needs to be provided in acute hospitals at all, given capacity pressures there for higher-risk procedures.

But that is for another day and another transformation agenda.

Today, in the light of the Lancet report, we should be celebrating, cherishing and properly funding our primary eye care systems in the UK. Through regulated, competitive systems, like the rest of primary healthcare, they have delivered high-quality personalised care, clinical and services innovation, investment, and responsiveness to patients. This, in turn, has made untreated refractive error or undiagnosed cataracts a thing of the past for most UK citizens.

Let us focus on achieving similar results for all and the other major eye diseases and seeking to share some of our skills, technology and good fortune with co-citizens in the rest of the world.

David Hewlett is a health analyst, policy-maker and strategist and part of the Executive Team at FODO, the Association for Eye Care Providers

Porthcawl optometrist helps ease pressure on the NHS

February 2021

Claire Edwards at Porthcawal
People in Porthcawl no longer need to visit their GP to get a prescription for eye medication, thanks to a local optometrist who has completed a postgraduate course in Independent Prescribing.

Claire Edwards, store director at Specsavers in Porthcawl, completed course with Cardiff University’s School of Optometry and Vision Sciences during lockdown last year. Claire has, with her colleague optometrist Megan Cosgrove, also completed a Professional Certificate in Medical Retina, which will improve customers’ screening, referral and treatment.

Commenting on the qualifications, Claire says: ‘The restrictions posed by COVID-19 have put so much pressure on the NHS that it has been devastating to see. I have always been passionate about the role optometry plays in healthcare and saw these unprecedented times as an opportunity to upskill and add further value to my customers.’

‘Not only can we now better treat and manage our customers’ conditions, but we can also help ease the pressure on our local surgeries and hospital eye departments, which brings us a step closer to our goal of bringing optical health to the primary care sector. Our qualifications plus an investment into OCT technology is a huge milestone in our continued efforts to provide the very best eye care for our patients.

AIO Challenges the DVLA

February 2021


AIO challenges "Awful DVLA letter"


The Association for Independent Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians (AIO) has challenged the DVLA in respect of letters that are being sent to members of the public by the ‘Drivers Medical Group’ which include the wording ‘Based on information that has been received, it has been decided that you should have an eyesight examination with Specsavers, however, due to the ongoing situation with Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), we are unable to request this examination at present.’

Apart from being very poorly worded, this sentence is both misleading and not in accordance with the provisions of law.

It is misleading because a visual Esterman Field Test does not constitute an eye examination. The terminology suggests that the Government is requiring (and would therefore presumably be paying for) a complete eye examination with Specsavers rather than a DVLA visual Esterman Field Test; if this is the case, what is Government requiring by way of an ‘eye examination’?

The wording is also not within the provisions of law. There is no regulatory requirement that an Esterman Field Test must be conducted by Specsavers for the purposes of assessing fitness to hold a driving licence. It is the case that the Government will only pay for an Esterman Field Test if it is undertaken at Specsavers under contract. However, each individual that is required to have an Esterman Field Test by the DVLA has the option to ask the optical practice of which they are a patient to conduct this for them by a GOC regulated practitioner on the basis that they will pay for it.

AIO has asked for the immediate withdrawal of the letter that is being issued to patients, and for appropriate wording to be incorporated that provides complete clarity as to the requirement enshrined in regulation to have an Esterman Field Test as required by the DVLA.

By way of constructive input AIO has suggested the following:

‘It has been determined that you should have an Esterman Field Test in respect of your vision. If you wish the test to be paid for by the taxpayer, you should go to a Specsavers outlet. If you prefer to use your own opticians you should check that they offer the Esterman Field Test, and also if any fee may be payable by you. Please note that an Esterman Field Test does not constitute a full eye examination and you should continue to attend these as advised by your optometrist.'"

AIO has copied its communication to the DVLA to the Secretary of State at the Department for Transport for his information.

Dr Christian French, Chair of AIO said ‘it is deeply disturbing that the Drivers Medical Group in the DVLA does not appear to know the difference between an eyesight examination and an Esterman Field Test.

Most importantly, for patients that do not know the difference, the DVLA letter is not just misleading, but is potentially detrimental to public health; and this against the backdrop of Covid-19.

It is also deeply upsetting for Independents with long standing patient relationships that the DVLA is signaling that only Specsavers can perform the Esterman Field Test for drivers licence purposes which is simply not the case. On the basis that Government should be doing what it can to save taxpayers money in these very challenging economic times it is perverse that they appear to be actively discouraging the public from paying for their own DVLA test to be undertaken.’

AIO has issued a separate press release about an official challenge to the DVLA contract award in 2019 to Specsavers.

AIO calls for Independent Review of the DVLA contract award to Specsavers

Februry 2021

The Association for Independent Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians (AIO) has called for an Independent Review of the tender process by which Specsavers was awarded the DVLA contract in late 2019.

AIO which was part of a tender for the contract submitted by Smart Employee Eyecare (SEE), is concerned about a number of aspects of the award of the contract.

Two of these concerns relate to the unusual reopening of the tender after the first round of submissions had been received, and also conformance with the Government’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Policy and Action Plan published on 6th March 2019.

In addition, the reasons supplied for the rejection of the SEE bid (which included Hakim Group Practices, Leightons, Bayfields and Vision Express as well as over 450 Independents) seem hard to reconcile. That a company which has contracts with HMRC, DEFRA, the Department for International Trade, and the House of Lords (not to mention the being on the Crown Commercial Framework) is somehow not good enough for the DVLA seems extraordinary.

AIO has therefore written to the Competition and Markets Authority (the CMA) and called for an Independent Review of the tender process to provide reassurance that all aspects conformed with the provisions of law, Government policy and the public’s best interest.

Dr Christian French, Chair of AIO commented ‘The DVLA was clear in its original Services Description document (issued in 2018) that it was ‘committed to removing barriers to SME participation in its contracts’, and it would be reasonable to assume that subsequent Government Policy on this issue that coincided with the re-opening of the tender would have added strength to this commitment. However, it clearly has not been fulfilled, and it is in the interests of the whole Independent sector to know why this is the case. We are very confident that the inclusive bid submitted by SEE met all the requirements of the Services description document and offered a quality solution; the DVLA in its pre-tender presentation to potential suppliers had emphasised the evaluation criteria was 60% on quality and 40% on price. We would hope that an Independent review would also judge the contract award against this evaluation criteria.’

AIO is also considering the submission of a formal complaint to the Department for Transport to which the DVLA reports.

The AIO has also made a complaint to the DVLA about a letter that has been sent to those requiring a "Field Test" at Specsavers Branch, contending that the wording is incorrect and should be changed. See other AIO story

Groundbreaking COVID-19 treatments to be fast-tracked through clinical trials

February 2021
  • Government awards multi-million-pound funding to phase 1 clinical trial platform to fast-track innovative treatments
  • NHS patients could receive cutting-edge COVID-19 treatments in months rather than years
  • Move will bring in the world’s best researchers to trial treatments in the UK

The move marks a landmark development in COVID-19 research that could see results for brand new treatments in months rather than years, and will enable the government to get even more safe and effective treatments to the NHS rapidly through a more streamlined process.

Currently, the government funds phase 2 and 3 trials, such as the RECOVERY trial, which brought life-saving treatments dexamethasone and tocilizumab to the NHS. Phase 1 trials, usually arranged by the researchers, are the earliest stage of human trials that ensure treatments are safe and show a signal of benefit in treating a disease.

The funding has been awarded to expand the AGILE clinical trial platform and will allow for global innovators to progress cutting-edge treatments for COVID-19 through all 3 clinical trial phases in the UK, further protecting our supply chain. This in turn will attract the brightest of researchers and manufacturers from around the world to trial their medicines here in Britain.

A record 3 million people tested by NHS Test and Trace this reporting week

February 2021

More people tested during this reporting week than ever before

More than a third of the population in England have now been tested at least once since NHS Test and Trace was launched

Test turnaround times for most testing routes continue to fall, with 97.6% of in-person test results returned the next day after the test was taken

In total, almost 21.8 million people have now been tested at least once since NHS Test and Trace was launched; that equates to a third of all people in England.

Of those people who took their tests in-person, at either a local or regional test centre, nearly all (97.6%) received their results the following day, while the median turnaround time for home test kits was just 35 hours.

Not only are people able to receive a test result more quickly and conveniently, but the service continues to reach a high proportion of cases and contacts.

NHS Test and Trace has successfully reached 87.0% of the people who received a positive test result, and 93.5% of their contacts, making a real impact in breaking chains of transmission. In total during the week of 28 January to 3 February, 377,391 people who had either tested positive or been identified as a recent close contact were reached and told to self-isolate, people who might otherwise have gone on to unknowingly spread the virus.

Between 28 January and 3 February, 264,577 people were identified as recent close contacts, with 96.5% of those with communication details provided reached and told to self-isolate. Since Test and Trace launched 89.8% of close contacts for whom communication details were provided have been reached.

During 28 January to 3 February, 90.2% (217,148) of contacts that were reached were reached within 3 days of the case that reported them taking their test, while the median time taken for contacts to be reached from the case that identified them reporting their first observed symptoms was 78 hours.

NHS Covid app updated for Variants

The NHS COVID-19 app has now been updated with the capability to alert users in postcode district areas where there is a variant of concern to provide additional messaging to users, for example that they may be eligible for surge testing, even if they don’t have symptoms and where to find more information.

NHS Test and Trace’s test site network continues to expand. With more than 850 test sites in operation, including 484 local test sites, people are travelling a shorter distance than ever before to get a test. The median distance travelled for a test is just 2.0 miles, a record for the service, compared to 5.1 miles as recently as September.

NHS Test and Trace has also delivered its best median turnaround times for home test kit results since the service launched last May, with a median turnaround time of 34 hours. The service is ensuring that those who are required to take a COVID-19 test are able to access one without visiting a test centre and meeting demand despite the current weather conditions.

More than 300 local authorities have joined forces with NHS Test and Trace to launch local tracing partnerships, combining specialist local expertise with the data and resources of NHS Test and Trace. These partnerships enable NHS Test and Trace to go further in supporting people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and tracing their recent contacts.

App designed to help reduce hospital admissions in Midlands

February 2021

A digital remote care solution including a mobile phone App is being used by Dudley CCG to help improve the care of patients at home with COVID.

The app developed by Norwegian medical software company, Dignio, is helping patients stay at home safely and so avoid unnecessary admissions to hospital as well as alerting clinical staff of patients more seriously ill who need prompt admission.

Dignio App for Covid 19 Patients participating in the pilot download the MyDignio app and use Bluetooth enabled medical devices provided as part of the pilot to monitor their temperature and oxygen levels at home. The App connects to a dashboard at the local health centre allowing these readings to be assessed by the clinical team so they can safely keep track of patients with COVID while they remain in their own home.

Users also report their symptoms through a questionnaire within the App to provide a clearer overview of their condition. The platform enables patients to become more engaged in their own health through daily monitoring and communication.

Previously self-isolating patients would receive a call to establish symptoms, but the easy-to-use app now works as a ‘virtual ward’. Patient readings are recorded automatically, and alerts sent to healthcare staff at the first sign of any deterioration, prioritising care for patients who need it most.

Dignio has recently joined the Serendip Accelerator programme which, operating in partnership with the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN), is designed to support the scale up of digital innovations.

Dr. Julian Sonksen, WMAHSN Clinical Advisor, said: “The AHSN plays an important role in ensuring the NHS benefits from innovation, including digital solutions to challenging clinical scenarios.

“Early in the pandemic the WMAHSN supported Dudley CCG to find a digital solution which would compliment and improve their COVID at home service. Subsequently, after the CCG settled on a solution the WMAHSN has coordinated a comprehensive evaluation of the service focusing on the digital remote care platform provided by Dignio.”

Ewa Truchanowicz

Following successful implementation, MyDignio could be used on a wider scale, for COVID-19 monitoring across more of the West Midlands or nationally.

Dr. Ewa Truchanowicz, Managing Director of MyDignio (pictured left ) said: “We were delighted to be accepted for the Serendip Accelerator. Having experienced support from the WMAHSN experts in our oximetry at home with the Dudley CCG project, we look forward to enhancing our growth in the region and beyond. Our connected care solution offers a safe and effective remote care management and working with WMAHSN allows us to ensure that it reflects the 'best in class' not just in technology, but also in methodology and content.”

NHS Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group is also planning to expand the solution to care homes across the area. The technology is able to monitor other conditions such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and general health of all care home residents.



For further information and details on Dignio, visit https://dignio.com/en/

Obituary. Rod Brindle

February 2021

Rod, (Howard Roderick Brindle) who was the owner, Director and optometrist of a successful group of practices Arthur Hayes Ltd in and around Croydon and the South under the name of Arthur Hayes was born in February 1943 and has passed away after short illness.

Ian McDermott remembers Rod as a person with a dry wit who loved life to the full.

In view of the current difficulties it will be impossible to attend any funeral arrangements but I those of you that do remember him will join us and Ian to wish him RIP.

Scotland to pay £500 windfall bonus to frontline healthcare workers

February 2021

This will include community optometrists and their optometry practice teams, including administrative staff and practice managers. It also includes locums who meet the same criteria.

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, announced on 30 November 2020 that NHS workers would be given a payment for their work to support the response to the COVID-19
pandemic. The payment is a maximum of £500 per person for full time staff and a pro-rata amount for those working part time. This is a one-off payment, subject to the arrangements described below and is not to be considered as an ongoing pay commitment.

This letter from NHS Scotland advises NHS Boards and Practitioner Services of the arrangements for the NHS payment disbursement to persons working within an independent service provider setting, announced on 30 November 2020.

The payment is available to:

General Practitioners and their practice teams, including administrative staff and practice managers; NHS Dentists and dental teams, including administrative staff and practice managers; Community optometrists and their optometry practice teams, including administrative staff and practice managers; and Community Pharmacists and their pharmacy teams.

Please note that applications for the payment must be made by 21 February 2021 and by an appropriate person.

ILC-UK response to NHS White Paper on NHS long-term plans

February 2021


The International Longevity Centre (ILC) UK is the UK’s specialist think tank on the impact of longevity on society, and what happens next.

ILC-UK was established in 1997 as one of the members of the International Longevity Centre Global Alliance, an international network on longevity.

The key points

• Prevention must be a priority to support the future of the NHS

• We need an ambitious plan for public health with some carrot and stick

• Government must not forget the commitment to 5 extra healthy years

Responding to the NHS White Paper published today, David Sinclair, Director of the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC) – the UK’s specialist think tank on the impact of longevity on society, said:

“It is promising to see the commitment to more joint working across government on prevention. The case for prevention is clear. We know it is better than cure. We know it is cost-effective. And we know it saves lives. Yet preventative services are too often the first to be cut and the last to receive investment.

The Conservative manifesto made the commitment to achieve an extra 5 healthy years by 2035, and the Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP has said, ‘This is the primary long-term clinical goal we've set the NHS’.

Yet there is little or no explicit reference to this goal in the White Paper. Government must not forget this commitment and the planned reforms of the NHS need to be designed in such a way to deliver this ambitious target.

It is vital that Government sets out soon its plans for the future design of the public health system. An ambitious plan with a bit of carrot and stick will be necessary.

Technology also undoubtedly has a crucial role to play in promoting and delivering prevention. But we need real action on breaking down the barriers to the use of technology, not just glib promises of a brighter future."

The ILC will be hosting a webinar discussion on the White Paper on 22 February 2021.

Blueprint launched for NHS and social care reform following pandemic

February 2021

New proposals launched to join up health and care services and embed lessons learned from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Action will support recovery by stripping away unnecessary legislative bureaucracy, empowering local leaders and services and tackling health inequalities

The reforms build on the NHS’s Long Term Plan proposals and a bill will be laid in Parliament when parliamentary time allows to carry the proposals into law

The Health and Social Care Secretary, with the support of NHS England and health and care system leaders, will today set out new proposals to build on the successful NHS response to the pandemic. The proposals will bring health and care services closer together to build back better by improving care and tackling health inequalities through measures to address obesity, oral health and patient choice.

The measures set out today, in a government white paper to be published on GOV.UK, will modernise the legal framework to make the health and care system fit for the future and put in place targeted improvements for the delivery of public health and social care. It will support local health and care systems to deliver higher-quality care to their communities, in a way that is less legally bureaucratic, more accountable and more joined up, by bringing together the NHS, local government and partners together to tackle the needs of their communities as a whole.

The proposals build on the NHS’ recommendations for legislative change in the Long Term Plan and come a decade on from the last major piece of health and care legislation. While the NHS has made practical adaptations within the current legal framework, this can be unnecessarily time consuming and changes are now necessary as part of the future recovery process from the pandemic.

The measures include proposals to make integrated care the default, reduce legal bureaucracy, and better support social care, public health and the NHS. The reforms will enable the health and care sector to use technology in a modern way, establishing it as a better platform to support staff and patient care, for example by improving the quality and availability of data across the health and care sector to enable systems to plan for the future care of their communities.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

The NHS and local government have long been calling for better integration and less burdensome bureaucracy, and this virus has made clear the time for change is now.

These changes will allow us to build back better and bottle the innovation and ingenuity of our brilliant staff during the pandemic, where progress was made despite the legal framework, rather than because of it.

The proposals build on what the NHS has called for and will become the foundations for a health and care system which is more integrated, more innovative and responsive, and more ready to respond to the challenges of tomorrow, from health inequalities to our ageing population.

By acting now, the government can make permanent some of the beneficial changes where COVID-19 has catalysed new and better ways of working and clear the path for improvements into the next decade such as delivering on manifesto commitments including 50,000 more nurses and 40 new hospitals.

Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS, said:

Our legislative proposals go with the grain of what patients and staff across the health service all want to see – more joined-up care, less legal bureaucracy and a sharper focus on prevention, inequality and social care.

This legislation builds on the past seven years of practical experience and experimentation across the health service and the flexible ‘can-do’ spirit NHS staff have shown in spades throughout the pandemic.

The proposals are designed to be flexible, allowing the health and care system to continue to evolve, and are designed to better equip the NHS and local health services to meet the longer-term health and societal challenges over the coming decades.

Key measures included in the ‘Integration and Innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all’ white paper include:

The NHS and local government to come together legally as part of integrated care systems to plan health and care services around their patients’ needs, and quickly implement innovative solutions to problems which would normally take years to fix, including moving services out of hospitals and into the community, focusing on preventative healthcare

Hardworking NHS staff currently waste a significant amount of time on unnecessary tendering processes for healthcare services. Under today’s proposals, the NHS will only need to tender services when it has the potential to lead to better outcomes for patients. This will mean staff can spend more time on patients and providing care, and local NHS services will have more power to act in the best interests of their communities

The safety of patients is at the heart of NHS services. The upcoming bill will put the Healthcare Safety Investigations Branch permanently into law as a statutory body so it can continue to reduce risk and improve safety. The Healthcare Safety Investigations Branch already investigates when things go wrong without blaming people, so that mistakes can be learned from, and this strengthens its legal footing

A package of measures to deliver on specific needs in the social care sector. This will improve oversight and accountability in the delivery of services through new assurance and data sharing measures in social care, update the legal framework to enable person-centred models of hospital discharge, and introduce improved powers for the Secretary of State to directly make payments to adult social care providers where required

The pandemic has shown the impact of inequalities on public health outcomes and the need for government to act to help level up health across the country. Legislation will help to support the introduction of new requirements about calorie labelling on food and drink packaging and the advertising of junk food before the 9pm watershed

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said:

We welcome the central proposals to drive integration and support greater collaboration through integrated care systems (ICS), that go beyond the traditional NHS boundaries. This is absolutely the right direction of travel for health and care more widely.

Legislation won’t make collaboration happen, but it can remove barriers and facilitate the changes that the NHS really needs as we move into the post-pandemic recovery stage. It is vital that we see genuine clinical engagement at every level of the operation of the ICS to drive collaboration.

We will look forward to reviewing the full range of proposals and engaging in the development of the legislation.

The legislation will fold Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority into NHS England, while maintaining the clinical and day to day operational independence of the NHS. Corresponding reforms will ensure the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has the right levers to ensure accountability back to Parliament and taxpayers.

The white paper sets out the government’s proposals for legislation, building on the extensive consultation that has already been undertaken by NHS England. A bill will be laid before Parliament later in the year.

The government intends to bring forward separate proposals on social care reform later this year.

OBITUARY

Sad loss of CASECO’S PETER WOOD

Peter Wood Caseco RIP

Peter Wood, founder and managing director of Caseco, has sadly passed away at the age of 75.

Widely respected throughout optics for his integrity, charm and experience, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in April 2020, and succumbed to this on 3 February 2021.

During the past 30 years Peter had built the business to be a major supplier of cases and accessories and will be widely missed by colleagues in optics.

Caseco continues in good hands with the established team and return of Julian Clarke – now as managing director - who worked for Caseco for many years before moving to Cutler and Gross. His experience will be valuable in sourcing and promoting new Caseco products.

As Julian said, “This is a very sad time for the family, for optics and for Caseco as a business. Peter was one of the original good guys and respected as a gentleman leading a fantastic team. He was very faithful to his customers and suppliers. He came across as being very measured but he had huge energy for work. As a team we have had nine months to prepare and will be carrying on with Peter’s great legacy.”

Originally from Manchester, Peter was a metallurgy graduate from Imperial College whose first job was as technical manager for Ever Ready, looking at processes and materials. He then worked for cricket ball manufacturer, Alfred Reader, where he worked on new materials, later joining Franklin Mint as Technical Director.

He travelled internationally, sourcing products and developing a great understanding of materials and manufacturing processes: skills which would be greatly beneficial to the success of Caseco.

Due to current Covid restrictions Peter’s funeral will be a family occasion in Goudhurst where he lived. He leaves behind his wife, Chris, their daughter, Hannah and son Alex.

Specsavers Colleagues complete vaccination course to assist in the big task in Wales

February 2021

Certificates for Covid vaccines 
Andy Britton, the ophthalmic director of Haverfordwest Specsavers, along with optometrists Angharad Bowie and Owain Jones, as well as dispensing optician Kate Hooper has completed the Covid–19 Vaccination Programme that allows them to deliver the SARS COV2 Vaccine in Wales.

Andy Britton says, ‘Having worked through the pandemic, being there for my patients and keeping as many as possible out of hospital and freeing up our local GPs, I look forward to being part of the route out of the chaos by stepping up and stepping in to help deliver the SARS COV2 Vaccine across my community.’

First patient benefits from sight-saving surgery at new Frome eye health clinic and surgical centre

February 2021

One of the first patients to receive sight-saving surgery at the Newmedica Frome eye health clinic and surgical centre has spoken about how it’s changed his life.

Newmedica in Frome

Jamie Garden, 71, was the first patient through the doors of the new location within Frome Medical Centre, Enos Way, Frome, Somerset, where more than £100,000 investment in new equipment has been installed. Now one of the largest independent clinical ophthalmology service providers in the UK, Newmedica operates from 25 community and GP sites, NHS and private hospitals and mobile clinics in England. Services delivered cover the full range of ophthalmology, including outpatients and surgery, adult, paediatric and neonatal ophthalmology.

Mr Garden had a cataract removed after experiencing a severe deterioration of his sight in the past year. Surgery prevented an increased loss of vision that would ultimately have led to blindness in the affected eye.
Newmedica Frome employs up to 10 staff on a theatre day, including consultants, optometrists, nurses, healthcare assistants and ophthalmic technicians.

Opening this new centre is seen as a big boost for Somerset, enabling many more people to have eye surgery without having to wait months.

Mr Garden had been told there was a lengthy waiting list for cataract-removal operations, but Newmedica opening the Frome site meant he was able to have the surgery within weeks of his first appointment, as wait times for cataract surgery within Newmedica Frome are extremely low.

Mr Garden says: ‘I felt I wasn’t seeing very well, but I thought it was just an age thing. It’s amazing how used you become to the slow deterioration of your eyesight.

‘I was told I’d have to wait 12-14 months to have my cataract removed, but when I went to Newmedica they told me that the Frome site was opening very soon and I could be seen really quickly. It wasn’t until I’d had the operation that I realised just how bad my sight had been. I expected it to be different but not to the extent it is. It’s astonishing.’

Patients are typically referred to Newmedica Frome by a GP or optometrist.

The Frome site is part of Newmedica Bristol, which has a well-established clinic and surgical centre in Clifton and Langford in Bristol.

Julian Phillips, operational director says: ‘We were delighted to welcome our first new patients to the Frome eye health clinic. Mr Garden's case shows that no-one needs to feel apprehensive about having treatment for their eyesight and I am thrilled that he felt he had an excellent experience.

‘We have a trusted track record of working closely with the NHS to carry out a range of specialist eyecare services at no cost to patients, using the latest innovations from the ophthalmology industry, as well as a dedicated professional ophthalmology team.

‘For NHS and private patients, our aim is always to eliminate any unnecessary delay or worry that people might experience when they’re told they need treatment for a sight-loss condition.

‘We’ve expanded our world-class service to Frome because we want to ensure that all patients feel safe, cared for and are informed about their treatment and able to enjoy many more years of improved vision.’

Newmedica launched nationally in 2009 with the aim of creating a network of specialist eye clinics that link with all optometrists and GPs – revolutionising care and treatment for patients who face the prospect of sight loss. The company works closely with the NHS, providing services for NHS CCGs, NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts, and other providers of NHS-funded services.

NHS staff targeted by nearly 140,000 malicious emails last year

February 2021

Cyber criminals bombarded NHS staffers with a total of 137,476 malicious emails last year, according to official figures from NHS Digital, the national provider of information, data, and IT systems for the health service.

The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by the Parliament Street think tank, revealed that doctors, nurses and admin staff reported 27,958 suspected phishing emails targeted the NHSmail email service, designed to lure the recipient into handing over confidential data. Additionally, health workers reported 109,491 suspected spam emails throughout the year.

The data shows that January 2020 was the highest month for reported attacks, with 29,355 in total, made up on 4,895 phishing attempts and 24,460 spam reports. The next highest month was the peak of UK lockdown restrictions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with 28,855 malicious emails reported, made up of 5,749 phishing attacks, and 23,106 spam reports.

Interestingly, the period from April to December saw a steady decline in the number of suspicious emails reported to NHS Digital, decreasing from 11,068 in April, down to a yearly-low of 4,382 in December.

Despite these lower figures, in June 2020 NHS Digital revealed that more than a hundred NHSmail mailboxes had been compromised, and were sending malicious emails to external recipients.

Chris Ross, SVP, International at Barracuda Networks comments: “These figures are a reminder that when it comes to stealing confidential data and wreaking havoc, cyber criminals still consider our health service to be fair game. Unfortunately, these scam emails are often incredibly realistic, lulling the victim into a false sense of security to hand over passwords, patient records, and sensitive information by impersonating legitimate brands and even fellow employees.

“With the global pandemic putting a huge strain hardworking doctors, nurses, and clinical staff, it’s absolutely vital that email systems are properly protected from outsider threats, to block malicious emails before they reach the inbox. It is equally important for Trusts to issue the necessary guidance about the risks associated with phishing attacks, so that staff are aware of the techniques associated used and can think twice before handing over important information to suspicious third parties.”

New and improved patient promise on personalised lenses from Essilor

February 2021

EssilorNew Guarantee 
A brand-new patient ‘total satisfaction’ guarantee has been announced by Essilor Ltd which now covers the loss and breakage of lenses.

If a patient is not 100 per cent satisfied with their new personalised lenses, or loses or breaks them, they can be exchanged or replaced within a 12-month guarantee period.

It applies to purchases of Frame fit f-360°/ E2, Near Vision Behaviour, Eyecode and AVA lenses, and provides extra reassurance for independent ECPs to pass on to their patients when purchasing new lenses.

Tim Precious, managing director at Essilor Ltd said: “It’s the first time we’ve extended a guarantee like this to cover the loss and breakage of lenses as part of a growth strategy, but we are confident it will help ECP efforts to regain momentum and drive new and existing customers back in-store.

“It also offers an extra way for our business partners to pass on goodwill to patients and will not only mitigate risk to the buyer but will ultimately enhance the patients' purchasing experience during their visit.”

To offer extra support, all participating independent opticians will be named on Essilor’s consumer website to help engage and attract online traffic to the practice.

A collection of point-of-sale material is available to promote the guarantee in-store, including leaflets to hand out to patients.

The guarantee launches on 8 February. Terms and conditions apply.

Clinical evaluation confirms high accuracy of highly mobile LamPORE test

January 2021

Findings from large-scale technical and clinical evaluation of LamPORE COVID-19 test confirm high sensitivity and specificity.

Evaluation carried out by NHS trusts and universities finds test to be highly effective in detecting the virus in people with and without symptoms.

LamPORE technology is highly mobile, with pop-up laboratories being piloted in Aberdeen, Telford, Brent and Newbury

A technical and clinical evaluation conducted by NHS trusts and universities has confirmed the LamPORE COVID-19 test, produced by Oxford Nanopore, to be accurate and sensitive enough to detect the virus in people with and without symptoms.

LamPORE test technology is a highly mobile and scalable solution – it can be operated in traditional laboratory settings, as well as smaller spaces. This means the technology can be quickly deployed to areas to provide additional testing capacity where it is needed for large numbers of people, alongside existing PCR testing capacity and community testing using lateral flow tests.

LamPORE uses swab samples in the same way as a traditional PCR test, but also shows high performance with saliva samples. The LamPORE test was assessed on saliva and swab samples from symptomatic and asymptomatic participants. With samples from asymptomatic participants, the LamPORE test was found to have an overall sensitivity of 99.57% and specificity of 99.4%, meaning the test is highly effective for testing people without symptoms in the community.

As well as detecting SARS-CoV-2, LamPORE is in development for the detection of other respiratory viruses at the same time, including flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

LamPORE technology is currently being piloted for use in mobile laboratories. In these pilots, pop-up laboratories which can process tests on-site using LamPORE technology have been set up in trucks which can travel to areas where there is a need for testing, processing up to 2,000 tests a day.

There are currently 4 mobile LamPORE units, deployed in Aberdeen, Telford, Brent and Newbury, being piloted to provide local testing services. This week, the first LamPORE mobile laboratory to arrive in Scotland started testing in Aberdeen, where it will move around to provide testing for those in remote locations. Pilots will continue into next month, followed by an evaluation of the mobile units.

LamPORE technology combines loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) and nanopore sequencing to provide highly scalable detection of COVID-19. The test is CE marked for usage with the Oxford Nanopore GridION device, which can process thousands of tests a day.

Latest findings from COVID-19 study published: January 2021

January 2021

The findings from Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI show infections remained very high throughout this period with 1 in 64 people infected.

Over 167,600 volunteers tested in England between 6 and 22 of January 2021 as part of one of the most significant COVID-19 studies

Final findings from Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI show infections remained very high throughout this period with 1 in 64 people infected

Everyone must continue to stay at home, not have contact with others unless absolutely necessary and follow the rules to protect the NHS and save lives

The final findings from the eighth report of REACT, one of the country’s largest studies into COVID-19 infections in England, have been published today by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI.

The latest REACT study provides a snapshot of the levels of infection in the general population between 6 and 22 January. The findings show infections in England have flattened but are at the highest level recorded by a REACT study, with the indication of a decline at the end of the reporting period.

The NHS is under significant pressure in England with over 37,000 people in hospital with the virus, twice as many as the first peak in April. 4,076 people are on ventilators, more than at any time in the pandemic. Everyone must play their part by staying at home to help reduce infections, protect the NHS and save lives.

Levels of infections varied across the regions and was highest in London, with 1 in 35 people infected, and highest nationally among those aged 18 to 24.

The main findings from the eighth REACT study for the period 6 to 22 January show:

national prevalence was 1.57%, or 157 per 10,000 people infected
national R is estimated at 0.98 with a range of 0.92 to 1.04
regional prevalence was highest in London at 2.83%
East of England at 1.78%
West Midlands at 1.66%
South East at 1.61%
North West at 1.38%
North East at 1.22%
East Midlands at 1.16%
Yorkshire and the Humber 0.80%
South West at 0.87%

Prevalence increased nationally in all adult age groups and was highest in 18 to 24 year olds at 2.44%.

Prevalence in the over 65s is 0.93%
Other Factors: large household size, living in a deprived neighbourhood, and black and Asian ethnicity were more likely to test positive compared to smaller households, less deprived neighbourhoods and other ethnicities

Healthcare and care home workers, and other key workers were more likely to test positive compared to other workers

While the levels of infections are lower in Yorkshire and the Humber and the South West compared to other regions, they are still high.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

These findings are a stark reminder of the need to remain vigilant.

Infection rates this high will continue to put a strain on our NHS and add to the significant pressures dedicated health and care staff are already facing.

We must bring infections right down so I urge everyone to play their part to help save lives. You must stay at home unless absolutely necessary, follow social distancing rules and minimise contact with others.

GOC sets out its commitment to anti-racism

January 2021

The General Optical Council (GOC) has published an anti-racism statement as part of its wider commitment to embed anti-racism and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) within the organisation and its processes.

The statement has been drafted in collaboration with GOC staff and Council, and forms part of the GOC’s EDI strategy, which sits within its five-year ‘Fit for the Future’ strategic plan.

Lesley Longstone, GOC Chief Executive and Registrar, said: “Over the past several months, we have been reflecting on our commitment to anti-racism and EDI and how we can ensure it is embedded in everything we do.

To continue the conversation and actions being taken, we are setting up an anti-racism group, which will review our structures, processes and practices. There will be opportunities to involve our wider community in these conversations and we hope you will get involved.”

Read the statement below.

Anti-racism statement
Definition:Racism (reɪsɪzəm)

“The belief that people of some races are inferior to others, and the behaviour which is the result of this belief. Racism also refers to the aspects of a society which prevent people of some racial groups from having the same privileges and opportunities as people from other races.” – Collins English Dictionary

Racism is dehumanising and touches everyone at all levels of society. The General Optical Council will not tolerate racism, prejudice, or any discriminatory behaviour. Racism and discrimination are against the law.

They deny the fundamental human right to live without fear of discrimination based on our innate characteristics.

Members of the General Optical Council and its staff have reflected on our own privileges; we have listened and had open discussions on Black Lives Matter, systemic racism and white privilege. We recognise that in our past endeavours we have been non-racist but passive in championing equality, diversity and inclusion, and in tackling racism.

Going forwards, the General Optical Council is committed to being a proactive anti-racist organisation, where we constantly challenge ourselves to develop our understanding and create practices and support structures so that equality and inclusion are built into the foundations of the organisation and the values of its people.

We cannot dismiss the issues that affect our staff, our registrants and stakeholders. It is our responsibility as an organisation to dismantle institutionalised racism and use our platform to champion, educate and enable change in greater society.

The General Optical Council is listening, learning and improving its own understanding of racism in order to address inequalities. We will identify and eliminate racism by changing our systems, organisational structures, policies and practices, as well as attitudes, so that systemic racism is not perpetuated, and power is redistributed and shared equitably at all levels. We will develop co-produced action plans, so that anti-racism is deeply ingrained in everything we do, from our policies and practices, to the values and culture that we nurture.

We recognise and acknowledge that racism still exists. We hear you; we believe you, and we will use our influence to challenge and change.

Essilor launches 2021 multi-pair offer

January 2021

Essilor Ltd has launched its 2021 multi-pair ‘Take Two’ promotion to help drive footfall into independent opticians with an offer of a complimentary or discounted second pair of glasses. The promotion includes all branded lenses such as Varilux and Transitions.

Essilor Multi Take Two promotion
A national digital advertising drive will publicise the promotion and direct consumers to their nearest participating store to redeem the offer.

Tim Precious, managing director at Essilor Ltd said: “This year’s Take Two promotion is even stronger to help increase online visibility and sales during an incredibly challenging period for our ECP business partners.

“Finding new ways to adapt and attract customers is essential and we believe the promotion and digital drive to store activity will help keep revenue streams healthy at a time when the number of appointments is much lower than normal. It will also help independents challenge competition on the high street from national chains.”

The promotion has been simplified to offer a net priced second pair, which includes all elements of the lens including Transitions, Xperio and personalisation measurements. This enables the optician to create extra value for their business whilst giving the customer multi pairs at attractive price points.

As an extra incentive, all independent practices taking part in the promotion will appear on the Essilor optician finder with a dedicated page about the promotion to help boost their online visibility.

Posters and digital assets are also available for ECPs to promote the offer on a local level.

The promotion runs from 1 February to 25 November 2021.

Terms and conditions apply.

Optoversity challenge set for 21 march online

January 2021

Optoversity Winners 2020
Optoversity
- the exciting challenge to test the knowledge and diagnostic skills of student optometrists – will take place on Sunday 21st March as an online event, marking the start of World Optometry Week.

Universities are being urged to draw up teams from all year groups to compete.

Out Of The Box Optics uses the exciting event as an opportunity to draw the next generation of optometrists together and at the same time raise much needed funds for Vision Care for Homeless People, through student and team sponsorship.

Last year the event raised £5,500 for the charity and in 2019 the sum was £3,600.

Harinder Paul, Vision Care for Homeless People Trustee, is encouraging everyone to become involved. “It is a really exciting event – won by the students at Hertfordshire University last year. We are really looking to draw the whole optical community together for this one day event and looking for our terrific supporters in optics to put up prizes for the best students.”

The day’s challenges have previously involved an ocular disease picture quiz, multiple choice questions, practical exams and anagrams to unscramble optical terminology.

“Many of the students felt they had learned a lot at the previous events – particularly working to a deadline. It is great fun and we are appealing again for support from sponsors who always make the event a great success,” added Harinder.

North London optom Karmelo Modina who created the event, in partnership with Gajan Singh, said “Optoversity has proved to be a fantastic way to bring together optometry students and to help prepare them for working life in the best way possible. Plans are already underway for the online event, which should see even more entrants due to the fact that no team will have to travel to the Anglia Ruskin site, where it has been kindly hosted in previous years.”

Students can enter via the website and businesses which would like to donate prizes please email: optoversity@outoftheboxoptics.co.uk

https://www.visioncarecharity.org/event/optoversity-challenge-2021/

Essilor extends ecp loyalty scheme

January 2021

Essilor Loyalty Scheme for ECPs Essilor Ltd has extended its Varilux Lens Specialist (VLS) loyalty scheme as part of a Covid-19 support package for independent opticians affected by the pandemic.

Points that were due to expire at the start of February can now be put towards extra marketing support over the next 12 months including branded merchandise, reading charts, media adverts and Facebook support.

Tim Precious, managing director at Essilor Ltd said: “We are giving ECPs the opportunity to use leftover points towards additional marketing support to help drive footfall in-store and get business back on track as the industry regains momentum.”

Points can also be exchanged for discounts on a selection of instruments to help a practice perform socially distanced eye examinations and create a safe environment for patients. This includes the newly launched Vision-R700 Phoropter which can be operated up to seven metres away from the patient.

“These technologies deliver strong personalised, patient experiences and will be invaluable in increasing consumer confidence and regaining trust from customers who have overlooked eye health in recent months,” said Tim Precious.

As part of the wider Covid-19 support package, Essilor Ltd continues to offer training and virtual business consultations.

Furthermore, it has several recently launched ‘drive to store’ strategies including a Take Two multi-pair and a customer satisfaction guarantee launching this month.

Lens equipment discounts and deals are available for opticians to obtain rebates against their monthly payments if extra financial support is needed.

Essilor Ltd’s CET platform is also available for opticians to complete points needed during the last year of the three-year learning cycle. Content is uploaded on a regular basis with current sessions covering ‘The truth about blue light’ and ‘Protecting the eye from long-term photo chemical damage’.

Drivers should be put in the shade, says research.

January 2021

INVU sunglass manufacturers claim research shows that the most important situation in which consumers need sun protection is when driving a car.

INVU 2 in One shades


With this in mind, switching from prescription glasses to a pair of prescription sunglasses while driving can be a true safety hazard.

This is where INVU Two in One glasses come into play. Each pair of INVU Two in One optical frames comes with a custom made magnetic clip-on that safely enables drivers to convert their prescription glasses into high performing ultra polarized prescription sunglasses in seconds.

This unique “Two in One” concept is supported with a head turning display that features the latest polarizing LCD technology. Consumers can experience the magic of ultra polarization by looking through the pre-mounted magnetic clip while at the same time trying out firsthand how easy it is to attach and detach the magnetic clip from the optical frame.


The clever engineering and modern contemporary design of the collection squarely targets the interesting Generation X. In line with the philosophy of INVU, the new INVU Two in One frames are crafted in the highest quality materials, such as Swiss TR 90, Ultem and handmade Acetate.

Community Champions to give COVID-19 vaccine advice and boost take up by providing over £23 million funding

January 2021

£23.75 million funding for councils and voluntary groups to expand covid communications with at risk groups

In rather ironic but perfect timing the Government's latest press release confirms our view in the following story prompted by Irish Opticians that there's a weird prference in creating new social and primary care pandemic action group rather than utilise the power primary care agents already have.

Community Champions will share COVID-19 vaccine advice and information to boost local vaccination take-up

Funding will support extra school programmes, helplines and phone calls to those in at risk groups

Over £23 million funding has been allocated to 60 councils and voluntary groups across England to expand work to support those most at risk from COVID-19 and boost vaccine take up, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced today (Monday 25 January).

Through the Community Champions scheme councils and voluntary organisations will deliver a wide range of measures to protect those most at risk - building trust, communicating accurate health information and ultimately helping to save lives. This will include developing new networks of trusted local champions where they don’t already exist.

Today’s funding is specifically targeted at areas with plans to reach groups such as older people, disabled people, and people from ethnic minority backgrounds who according to the latest evidence are more likely to suffer long-term impacts and poor outcomes from COVID-19.

Irish Eye-care waiting lists increase to 53,000

January 2021

Irish Optometrists call for greater role in public eye-care

Eye-care waiting lists have increased significantly to more than 53,300 at the end of 2020, as Optometrists today called for a greater role in public eye-care.

National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) figures to December 2020 show that almost 45,500 people were on the outpatient eye-care waiting list – accelerating an upwards trend from 41,200 at the end of 2019 and 40,600 at the end of 2018.

Almost 23,700 were waiting more than a year and almost 15,500 more than 18 months, significantly up from 17,300 and 12,000 respectively at the end of 2019. Furthermore, more than 7,900 people were awaiting inpatient eye procedures, up from 7,700 at the end of 2019.

Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) President John Weldon said COVID-19 is worsening capacity problems in eye-care and change is needed to better meet the current and future needs of the population.

“Citizens’ eye health is being compromised due to unacceptable delays and COVID-19 is now making this worse. Much of the resource needed to increase capacity in eye-care within Primary Care – as committed to in the national healthcare plan Sláintecare – is already in place in Optometry.

“There are 300 practices and 700 practitioners all across the country who are highly trained, have state of the art equipment and have capacity to provide more.

“AOI encourages that a greater role for Optometrists be given more discussion by the Department of Health and HSE. In Ireland Optometrists are not engaged with and utilised as much as they are in other EU countries.

“The highly successful Sligo Cataract Scheme in the North West. involving a greater role by Optometrists, has resulted in greatly reduced waiting times in that region. This shows what can be done,” Mr Weldon said.

AOI welcomed plans in the development of children’s eye-care for Optometrists to take charge of routine State eye examinations and care for children aged 8+. This has already commenced in a small number of regions, and AOI called for a timeline and urgent roll out to all regions.

AOI concluded by saying that it had also written to the Minister for Health and HSE offering its members’ services to help with the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

As readers will acknowledge PHN through its Opchat News pages has both written to the leaders of the NHS and called on its pages for a greater involvement within the Covid Journey. Back last summer we suggested that an optical practice had the necessary experience, protection and IT availability to assist in mass lateral flow testing. Other than a thank you note and a promise to pass on, we have heard nothing back and seen no action. We also joined the clamour for pharmacists to be fully included in the vaccination process which appears almost grudgingly to have been accepted in some quarters. Why is it that primary care resources as in optometry and pharmacy are treated as a Cinderella Player by the NHS. Are those as our leaders worried about negative cost benefits of providing service over trade?

This coicides with the story published above and another Government PR stating that "Asymptomatic testing is to be rolled out across the country starting this week"

Local authorities will be encouraged to target testing to people who cannot work from home during lockdown.

Around 1 in 3 people have coronavirus (COVID-19) without displaying any symptoms.

Rapid, regular testing for people without symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) will be made available across the country from this week, with the eligibility of the community testing programme expanded to cover all 314 lower-tier local authorities.

Local authorities will be encouraged to target testing at people who are unable to work from home during the national lockdown.

ESSILOR opens a Best Practice Virtual Showroom

January 2021

Essilor Ltd unveils its first virtual showroom and welcomes ECPs to take an interactive guided tour of its flagship store.

Essilor's Virtual Showroom The “Essilor Virtual Centre” presents a first-class optical practice, driven by innovation and differentiation to provide a complete in-store experience.

It demonstrates ways ECP’s can future proof with new technologies that support social distancing to help build consumer confidence at a time when many patients are reluctant to book an optical appointment.

Tim Precious, managing director at Essilor Ltd said: “The virtual centre brings to life what we offer to help ECPs provide the finest consumer experience and safest visual offering possible.

“Worryingly, a recent YouGov survey by charity Fight for Sight revealed that one in five people were less likely to get an eye test now than before the pandemic, for fear of catching or spreading the virus.

“It is evident that the pandemic is having an enormous impact on the profession and growth is likely to remain unpredictable until consumer confidence stabilises. The independent sector needs future proofing and there has never been a better time for business owners to take a leap of faith.

“There are many ways we can work together to build this confidence and the virtual show room provides ways to embrace change by offering socially distanced eye examinations and screenings to reassure patients when anxiety levels are at an all-time high.

“So, whether you are an established partner looking for the latest product updates or wish to work more closely with us, the tour lets you explore what’s on offer and how we can help be your best business partner.”

Visitors can discover and engage with Essilor’s portfolio of products and services to find out more about the instruments, lenses, and services showcased inside.

During the tour, ECPs find out more about marketing tools available to attract customers in-store and engage with them once inside.

The latest instruments for an eye exam room and an in-store lens lab are showcased in its ‘screen and prescribe’ section, in addition to advanced digital tools to achieve precise patient measurements.

Digital selling solutions to facilitate lens recommendations to customers also feature and exclusive lens brands to correct vision, protect the eyes and enhance the clarity of vison are explored.

Visit http://essilorvirtualexperience.com and select Essilor UK & Ireland from the drop-down list.

British public urged to play their part in historic vaccine roll out

January 2021

The public has a vital part to play in the rollout of the UK COVID-19 vaccines delivery plan.

NHS urges Public to join the national effort by helping family and friends aged 80 and over to get their life-saving jabs


Government calls on the public to commit to 3 pledges to support the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines

Around 45% of people aged 80 and over have now been vaccinated and over one million have been offered a jab at an NHS vaccination centre

The NHS has vaccinated around 45% of those aged 80 and over in England and is encouraging people who have been offered a vaccine to book their appointments as soon as possible. Over one million people aged 80 and over have now been invited to book their jab at one of England’s NHS vaccination centres.

Helping vulnerable people to get their vaccinations is one of three pledges the government has asked the public to make to support the largest vaccination programme in British history.

The 3 pledges are:

Help out - help those aged 80 and over by supporting friends, family and loved ones with their appointments, as well as volunteering to help those in the community

Join up - sign up to clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments

Stay informed - keep up to date with accurate and trusted NHS advice and make sure to share facts with friends and family

By taking part in one or more of these pledges, members of the public can join the national effort and support the NHS as the vaccination programme continues to expand.

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Report on “Ageing: Science, Technology and Healthy Living”

January 2021

Responding to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee on Healthy Ageing report published today, David Sinclair, Director of the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC), said:

“It feels like groundhog day with yet another Parliamentary report highlighting our failure to respond to ageing.”

“It has been clear for decades that the UK is failing to meet the challenges of ageing whilst also missing out on the opportunities of an older population.”

“It doesn’t have to be this way. As the Lords report highlights, the UK could lead the way. We are global leaders in health and technology. Government must drive and better support innovations if we are to deliver a longevity dividend.”

“COVID-19 has highlighted the inequalities in ageing. Too many of us are ageing badly.”

“The Government’s aim to deliver five extra healthy years of life by 2035 is laudable and exciting but completely unachievable without major policy change. We need a major focus on preventative health not just nice policy words.”

“It’s time to wake up to ageing. Let’s hope when we wake up it isn’t to 6 more weeks of winter but instead to a concerted effort from Government to address the challenges raised by the committee.”

Further New Year's Reflections

January 2021

Mike Ockendon the AIO secretary has added his organisation’s consideration of the prospects of change for Optics UK after the passing of the pandemic.

Answering Opchat News’s request for a viewpoint on whether the pandemic has created a turning point in the way Optical Services are provided to and used by the public whilst he offers a rosy possibility to establish clear water between the role of clinician and retailer.

He takes a more cynical view that there will be no change and states that “There are also signs that those who centre their practices around retailing are not prepared to put their weight behind progressing the role of optometry.”

Read more in our original news piece here.

(The GOC, AOP and FODO have not as yet offered a view)

New Year’s Honours for those in Optics

January 2021

Sarah Joyce, Superintendent Optometrist at ASDA, also received a BEM services to Primary Optical Care during the Covid-19 response. Sarah said she was honoured and thanked all her colleagues for their support.

Optometrist Ruth Perrott also received an MBE for her services to people with sight impairments in Africa.

Tanjit Dosanjh, Founder and CEO, The Prison Opticians Trust

Optometrist Tanjit Dosanjh, Founder and CEO, The Prison Opticians Trust, (iamge left) has received an OBE in this New Year’s Honours.

The honour recognises his services to optometry in prisons and reducing re-offending with the organisation he founded and leads.

The Prison Opticians Trust provides eye care to more than 14,000 prisoners a year and offers training opportunities to reduce re-offending.

Read the story about the Prison Opticians Trust here

Will the end of the pandemic bring forth a new start for Optics UK?

January 2021

Could the double whammy of disruption of supply and service of both Covid-19 and Brexit spell disaster to some in the vision care sector or act as a stimulus to recovery and doing things better and differently in the “New Normal”

We asked key opinion formers, heads of the membership groups you contribute to, heads of the Colleges and regulatory bodies and respected members of the sector.

Overview

Bob Hutchi8nson Immediate Past President of GP with Primary Care section at the RSM and PHN CEOWe know there are desperate times ahead and we are currently experiencing the worst of the pandemic over the next 2 to 3 months but let us hope that the vaccine remains effective and is rolled out with the same efficiency that it was designed, checked and verified in its creation.

The NHS has never been known for its ability to change speed or course despite the pressures around us, but we have had fair warning of the needs of the Nation for efficient expedition of the vaccine.

Primary care needs to prove it plays a vital role in supporting secondary care and gain some brownie points. In past years there has been a dramatic increase in secondary care medical staff but not in Primary Care where GP numbers remain stubbornly static.

However, being optimistic what our sector needs to reflect on is, how best we can improve the service to the public post pandemic.

Has the pandemic taught us any lessons? Has our changed working patterns adjusted the way we work with other professions and secondary care? Is it time to remove professional boundaries? Often instigated by regulatory bodies as part of their required remit and often supported by factions of the professions who see ringfencing of competencies a safe way to retain jobs and members.

Most pandemics and wars create an opportunity for change to happen. What will Optics UK and other professional bodies consider to be a significant step forward for 2021.

Bob Hutchinson PHN CEO

We asked those charged with leading those groups for a preview of things to come.

From Mike Ockendon AIO

2021 – a seized or a missed opportunity?

Mike Ockendon Sec AIO
The Covid pandemic represents a possible bifurcation point for optometry.

For the first time in living memory, the profession has had the opportunity to claim widespread recognition as a provider of primary eye health care. The confluence of clinical care and retailing in the world of optics has perhaps never come under greater focus.

AIO believes that there is a once in a generation opportunity to establish clear water between the role of clinician and retailer and it is up to the profession of optometry and the bodies that represent the profession to seize it.

The Post-Covid-19 AIO Manifesto sets out how the Association believes this can be achieved.

The potential to progress optometry to the next level as the permanent provider of primary eye health care has never been greater with the NHS system under massive pressure. That pressure is likely to sustain for many months, even years, to come.

During the pandemic It has become recognised that optometry can deal effectively with a multitude of eye conditions, and a ‘new normal’ needs to be established, properly remunerated by the NHS, whereby eye problems are automatically referred to an optometrist first. The role of dispensing optician can and should be enhanced as part of this journey 

Will it happen?

The omens are not good.

The GOC seems intent on ‘dumbing down’ the roles of optical professionals through the Education Strategic Review.

The Review seems to advocate disproportionately weighting non-clinical skills without overtly specifying what clinical skills an Optometrist should have, and now more than ever the profession needs clear and decisive clinical guidance.

Further, the early signs of the potential for a new deal with NHS England do not seem to have come to anything – at least it has all gone rather quiet.

There are also signs that those who centre their practices around retailing are not prepared to put their weight behind progressing the role of optometry.

In short, the commercial pressures for the status quo appear to once again dominate the agenda.

So what’s it to be – ‘plus ca change’ or ‘carpe diem’?

AIO would love it to be the latter but fears it will be former.

Mike


From Sir Tony Garrett, General Secretary, ABDO.

2021 and beyond.

Sir Tony Garrett

Everyone hopes that 2021 will be a lot better than 2020 but it is still going to be a tough year. It is too early to assess the long term impact of Covid-19
on the sector but clearly there will be the chance to capitalise on the great professionalism and resourcefulness shown by so many in the profession
over the past few months.



During 2021 ABDO will be developing our new five year strategic plan to come into effect from January 2022. One of our key objectives will be to seek
to extend our scope of practice and to be in a position to exploit the rapid changes that will come over the next few years. The sector needs to help
shape the regulatory environment of the future. A serious discussion needs to be had at some stage with all stakeholders about the need for a sector
specific regulator or being part of an overarching and perhaps more objective one.

Recovery from the pandemic will be the top priority for everyone for most of 2021, wider changes in the sector will almost certainly be on hold until
2022 at the earliest.

Tony

From Huntly Taylor, Master, Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers:

Master Huntley Taylor
For almost 400 years members of our Company have played an important role in their communities...perhaps never more so in 2020.

Eye health professionals across the field have come through the challenges of the last year with greater experience and new ways of working but still grounded on a strong and continuing concern for the preservation and improvement of vision.

There are many examples of people who have gone beyond their usual roles to push forward on technology and research, as well as the many local heroes who have looked after neighbours and vulnerable people.

We should be grateful to everyone who has worked so hard.

We all know how important it is for patients with sudden or serious vision problems to be seen without unnecessarily delay and how important it is for people with impaired vision to be able to live their lives.

However Covid has caused immense pressures right across the vision care and sight loss sectors. The pandemic has brought into focus the need for support systems we all call upon from time to time but didn't think much about before healthcare is required. Days out enjoying sport or culture and just plain, simple human contact with friends.

Let's hope that in 2021 and into the future we will make time to treasure those things.

I can't wait to welcome Liverymen back to events at Apothecaries' Hall and to show the world how proud we are to be 'People of Vision'.

Huntly

From Stuart Burn Chairman FMO

Stuart Burn FMO
There’s no question we have been and still are facing one of the most challenging periods in our lifetimes and of course not just in our professional lives.
COVID-19 has ravaged the entire world throughout 2020 and at the time of writing, it looks likely to continue throughout most, if not all, 2021.

However, I believe the optical sector particularly at practice level has risen to the challenges presented by COVID-19 and demonstrated an immense ability to quickly adapt and in so doing has also demonstrated both resilience and fortitude.

Another by-product of this adaptability is the team work and comradery that has been seen in abundance from small teams up and down the country. Practices have been faced with extraordinary tests during 2020 and the willingness of staff to adjust and modify their working hours and working practices in order to help patients has been one of the highlights for me.

I have also been impressed with the practice owners who are the ones who have led this battle (and it has been a battle) with their drive, tenacity and enthusiasm to rework, revise and recalculate how their practice can, not only, endure but deliver excellence in eyecare. It is their focus on their patients’ needs that has driven a remarkable team performance from practice to practice across the UK and Ireland. I am sure in many cases it has come with an increase in alcohol intake but make no mistake practice owners have risen to this challenge and shown a remarkable set of skills in order to ensure patients are cared for and looked after.

We spend much of our time critiquing and looking to improve and once and a while it does us all good to take stock of position and congratulate ourselves on a job well done, and in this case under the most intense of pressures.

So whilst there has been a lot to learn from this pandemic and I’m quite sure more to come over the coming months, I think now is the time to reflect and give ourselves a rejuvenational ‘shot in the arm’ mentally. We are not out of the woods quite yet but lets face the forthcoming challenges head on with the same spirit, passion and gusto as we have all demonstrated so abundantly.

2021………….bring it on.

Stuart Burn - Chairman
Federation of Manufacturing Opticians

ACLM View for 2021 Sec. Gen Simon Rodwell

ACLM Logo
With 2020 and the Brexit transition behind us, it is essential that the sector makes the most of the huge opportunity for change created by the turmoil.

Underfunding will likely continue for many years and so we need to look radically for new ways of working and not just focus on rebuilding the old structures.

Patients have become very accustomed to online supply, and there is no prospect of reversing that trend, and so the high street needs to expand its own online sales channels across the board, as well as increase the number of sight tests and revive initial contact lens fitting. Having been starved of personal contact for too long, patients may well be more open to visiting a practice – but likely with pre-conditions: it has to be safe, it has to be a positive experience, it has to be easy, quick and efficient, without pressure, at a good price, with plenty of choice, and with an eye care professional who communicates well and fulfils any unmet needs. It is a big challenge.

Pretty much all the reasons why people continue to visit, or not, their optician have been explored and written about in detail over the years, but the percentage of contact lens drop-outs remains unacceptably high.

This is a wasted opportunity because it shows that there is ongoing consumer interest in contact lenses, but we all know it is not being maintained.


Nothing is better for growing customer loyalty overall than keeping patients for the whole contact lens prescribing and wearing cycle, as proven by the London Business School study, and manufacturers are always keen to help achieve this.

For too long the sector has underestimated the internet and its effect, but the reality has been brought home by the pandemic. Moves to relax the supply rules are just playing into its unregulated hands and the petty divisions within the sector are accelerating that trend. Online technology presents an imminent danger to the high street as clearly highlighted in the excellent and widely distributed Foresight

Report of 2016 (https://www.abdo.org.uk/news/foresight-project-report/).

In the 4 years since its publication have we honestly done all we can to prepare for the future?

At a time when our high streets and network of hard working practitioners have never been more at risk due to COVID-19 and the growth of online supply, and in line with the aspirations of a new and independent UK, we need to cut away bureaucracy, endless documentation and non-essential regulations with vigour. With a new Medicines and Medical Devices Act in the making we should also seize the long-overdue opportunity to update the Opticians’ Act and reinforce patient safety.

It hasn’t always been easy to identify the real common strategic issues and present a sector wide position and response but surely the current threat of deregulation and illegal online supply is plain for all to see. It is our belief that the Optical Confederation should be revived so that the sector actually can have a clear strategic position on key issues. Unless we rebuild it, and collaborate wholeheartedly to give it the support it deserves, the sector risks being swept away by the bigger market forces outside optics.

Simon

Reflections form Henrietta Alderman CE of AOP

Henrietta Alderman Chief Executive of AOP
As we begin 2021 with another national lockdown and news of the UK vaccination programme, many of us will be feeling a mix of uncertainty and some cautious optimism about what the year ahead will bring.

It is clear there are still huge challenges to face, but I am reassured by the resilience and resourcefulness the optical sector has demonstrated so far in response to this pandemic. These qualities will continue to serve the profession well, as we tackle the challenges and take advantage of new opportunities ahead.

The optical profession

The COVID-19 pandemic has already highlighted to the Government and the NHS the valuable contribution our members make to the frontline of patient care and the importance and scope of their clinical roles. The sector has developed new ways of working such as the COVID-19 Urgent Eyecare Services (CUES), and we will continue to take an active role in ensuring the whole profession learns from new developments across the UK.

The pandemic has not only had a significant impact on our members and the wider optical profession, but also on the nation’s eye health with some patients suffering avoidable sight loss due to cancelled and missed appointments. The long-term impact of this is still to be seen but it has never been more important for optometrists to be at the centre of eye health and care at every stage in a patient’s life, from disease detection to supporting patients in the longer term after a diagnosis, whether through treatment, monitoring or expert prescribing and support for low vision.

Individual members

As for our individual members, everyone is in a slightly different situation, both in terms of their working environment and their own clinical vulnerability to the virus, and our team has been assisting members throughout the pandemic with their concerns and queries.

I wish to reassure members that the AOP is also working hard behind the scenes to find a way through these challenging times, with our current focus on ensuring the necessary financial support for practices and access to the COVID-19 vaccine for all in optics who need it. The situation is changing rapidly, and we will continue to update our guidance on the coronavirus section of our website.

Throughout 2021, the AOP will continue to do everything we can to provide the support, protection and representation members expect from us including:

• Collaborating with other sector bodies on key issues remains a key focus and we will continue to work closely with others so that the needs of our members and their patients are reflected in regulatory and policy development

• Supporting members CET and professional development needs, we will deliver a new programme of webinars, including tailored content for locums, students and independent practitioners, and online peer discussions for general and therapeutic optometrists

• Focusing on the health and wellbeing of our members through a series of webinars offering practical support, alongside our confidential and free Peer Support Line

• Delivering the best possible, timely and practical advice and guidance through our expert legal, clinical and regulatory teams
From all of us at the AOP, I wish all those within the optical sector a healthy and prosperous 2021.

Henrietta Alderman

Pharmacists snubbed by Government Leaders over Covid Jabs

January 2021

As reported in the Daily Telegraph today (06.01.21) Pharmacists in the UK do not understand why their ready and waiting resource has not been included in the vaccination plans despite the “scrabbling around by Government for vaccinators among retired medics”. A statement made by Simon Dukes CEO of the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee.

The sector reckons it could easily vaccinate 1.3 million people a week in addition to the current program using its workforce of 11400 pharmacists.

It certainly seems a baffling approach to using our primary care resources.

In November reported in Pulse “GPs will ‘likely’ want to work with community pharmacies to ‘support delivery’ of the Covid vaccination enhanced service, NHS England has said.
Community pharmacies may also be called upon to ‘fill gaps’ in GP provision, it added.

So why have they not been included in pre-planning and offered the contract. We thought it might be a turf war between professions but with CCGs directing the local centres we hope this to be untrue.

PHN asks the NHS to reconsider what appears to be an insupportable action.

Overall all Primary Care providers need all the stimulation, care and support to be handed down visibly by NHS England, something that appears visibly lacking at present.

Primary eye care during the lockdown

January 2021

Opticians remain open across the UK to meet eye care needs but must prioritise emergency and essential care. .

In England and Scotland, the College of Optometrists has advised the sector to continue following amber guidance and prioritising emergency and essential eye care.

The College plans to issue more detailed guidance later today.

The Scottish Directorate of Primary Care for Dentistry and Optometry Division, said: "The Scottish government will shortly be issuing a PCA providing further information for the optometry sector. In the meantime, all optometry practices are reminded that they must remain open, continue to scrupulously follow all relevant Infection Prevention and Control measures and guidance, and continue to prioritise emergency and essential care and those patients who are at greatest risk of detriment to sight or wellbeing."

The situation is unlikely to change for the next 2 months but we will bring you updates from the College and ABDO on trading and on the future loss of education for students.

Extremely clinically vulnerable (shielding) people

In England, the government is advising the clinically extremely vulnerable to begin shielding again. They should only go out for medical appointments and exercise or if it is essential. If they cannot work from home, then they should not attend work (read more).

In Scotland, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has written to everyone on the shielding list with detailed advice.

People on the list should "stay home as much as possible" although they "can still go out for exercise and essential shopping or medicines". However, they are advised to "strictly follow the guidelines when shopping and limit the number of times you go to a shop. Shop at quieter times".

If they cannot work from home, the advice is "not to go to work". They can use the CMO letter as "shielding notification" and show it to their employer as "a fit note for as long as lockdown restrictions are in place".

We will publish further details as they arrive and you can view the ever increasing infection rates on our Covid Hub at PHN here

COVID-19 alert level: update from the UK Chief Medical Officers

January 2021

On January 4th 2021 at 20.00 hours A joint statement from the UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) recommending that the UK COVID-19 alert level move from level 4 to level 5. This prompted the Prime Minister to broadcast to the nation.

The CMOs stated that following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data, the 4 UK Chief Medical Officers and NHS England Medical Director recommend that the UK alert level should move from level 4 to level 5.

Many parts of the health systems in the 4 nations are already under immense pressure. There are currently very high rates of community transmission, with substantial numbers of COVID patients in hospitals and in intensive care.

Cases are rising almost everywhere, in much of the country driven by the new more transmissible variant. We are not confident that the NHS can handle a further sustained rise in cases and without further action there is a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed over the next 21 days.

Although the NHS is under immense pressure, significant changes have been made so people can still receive lifesaving treatment. It is absolutely critical that people still come forward for emergency care. If you require non-urgent medical attention, please contact your GP or call NHS 111.

With lockdowns already in place in Northern Ireland and Wales, England and Scotland announced new Covid-19 restrictions.

In England, restrictions come into effect today, 5 January, and are expected to last until mid-February if hospitals' situation improves. The goal is to have vaccinated everyone in the top four priority groups, including all frontline healthcare staff, by that point.

During this period, people cannot leave or be outside their home except where they have a 'reasonable excuse', which includes:
• Work – where you cannot do your job from home
• Essential activities – to buy things at shops or obtain services, which includes on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or someone self-isolating
• Medical reasons – such as medical appointments and emergencies, Covid-19 testing and vaccination etc.

VCHP Filmed for GSK Impact Award

January 2021

GSK Winners award

Vision Care for Homeless People, was chosen from more than 400 UK charities as one of ten winners of a £30,000 GSK IMPACT Award and is featured in a new film about its work.

Recognising the outstanding work to improve health and wellbeing, the award was made after careful scrutiny of VCHP by GSK and the Kings You can view the video here https://youtu.be/Z7NVJytP4jY

The funds will be a major boost to secure the future of the eight regional clinics, as VCHP Chair, Elaine Styles, explained “Highlighting the dedication of more than 109 volunteers who work so hard to break down barriers to accessible eyecare, this could not be more timely as so many of our fundraising events have been cancelled in recent months. Our research shows that homeless people are ten times more likely to have longstanding eye health problems than the general population. We normally see around 1,800 patients a year and dispense a similar number of specs. Last year was clearly not normal but we hope to be back on track very soon in 2021.”

Anyone interested in supporting VCHP should visit www.visioncarecharity.org

Entries now open for West Midlands healthcare awards

December 2020

Today (14 December 2020) West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN) is proud to announce the return of its prestigious Meridian Celebration of Innovation Awards, with entries now open.

Since its launch in 2015, the awards programme has been celebrating the individuals and organisations that are revolutionising healthcare in the West Midlands with new ideas, technologies, and initiatives.

This year’s awards will shine a particular light on those that have continued to encourage positive change to patient care and the region’s healthcare economy, in spite of the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The fifth rendition of the awards will be making a virtual return with an online ceremony taking place on Tuesday, 30 March 2021.

Any organisation or individual from across the healthcare, enterprise, academia, or not-for-profit sectors can enter, but they must have worked on a project with WMAHSN, or one of its expert networks, to qualify.

This year’s categories include:

• Meridian Innovation and Improvement Champion Award
• Workforce Innovation Award
• MidTECH Award for Best NHS-Developed Innovation
• Mental Health Resilience Innovation Award
• Medicines Optimisation and Management Innovation Award
• Driving Digital Transformation Innovation Award
• Patient Safety and Improvement Award
• Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Management Innovation Award
• ‘Above and Beyond’ Adoption of Innovation Award
• Meridian Award

Entries can be submitted via the Meridian Innovation Exchange website https://meridian.wmahsn.org.

Deadline for submissions is Friday, 5 February, 2021 at 5pm

The shortlist for each award category will be announced a week later on Friday, 12 February, 2021.

Tammy Holmes, Head of Innovation Exchange at WMAHSN said: “We are excited to once again recognise and celebrate some of the incredible work taking place within the West Midlands’ vibrant healthcare sector.

“For anyone working in the healthcare industry especially, 2020 has been year to remember. We have continued to see the region’s healthcare industry improve, thanks to the passion and dedication shown from the many individuals and organisations we work with.

“We look forward to once again celebrating the successes of those seeking to address challenges and offer tangible solutions to make our industry better and improve patient care.”

Meridian Innovation Exchange is open for any individuals or organisations to find healthcare innovations, share ideas, build groups and grow networks to collaborate and improve healthcare provision across the West Midlands.

The platform helps users showcase their ideas, spread good practice, share ideas and bring about change with collaborators from across sectors.

 

 
 
 
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