'I'll give it my best shot', Doug Perkins promises at Optrafair
Specsavers co-founder Doug Perkins returned to the stage at Optrafair last weekend with an update on the future of optics and a renewal of his call for all optometrists to get educated, accredited and experienced in providing enhanced optical services in order to prove their value to the NHS.
‘We have to get the doctors on our side. We have to prove that the high street is the place for quality and service and convenience. Then we will have a business case for going to NHS commissioners.’ he said.
Referring to the ‘dream partnership’ of ophthalmology and optometry working
together, he observed that not enough optometrists were experienced at the right level:
‘In order to achieve this, we need several thousand people to be accredited and experienced. I am confident that the Government will then influence the CCGs to have a different model for the whole profession. What is our vision? We want to alter the basic business model. Every single day we hear how stressed GPs are. They are the gatekeepers to ophthalmology but they don’t really have the equipment or the optical experience. Our strategy is to build relationships with GP surgeries so that they can have confidence in high street optics. Our vision is to make the optometrist the gatekeeper to ophthalmology and that has to be the driving force of our model going forward. We are passionate about doing more work in the community and demonstrating that too much is going into the ophthalmology departments in hospitals. There is too much stress and too much waiting for patients and too little communication going on.’
Doug also spoke about the millions of pounds invested last year in a campaign with RNIB to raise awareness of the importance of regular eye care:
‘The response to the campaign has been tremendous,’ he said. ‘People love to hear a quality message from optometrists. This year, with RNIB and the IGA, we are going to do even more to communicate the services that optometrists can deliver inside the practice. We are confident that over time people will get that message.’
On Specsavers’ partnership with Newmedica he commented:
‘We are not experts in ophthalmology so we wanted to consult and work in partnership with someone who had that experience. Newmedica have been working for nine years, taking the stress off hospitals around the country where the queues are significant. They have a lot of experience and a lot of belief in the alliance between optometrists and ophthalmologists.
‘We are learning from them and we are passionate about doing more work together in the community. We want to make that difference. The jewel in the crown would be if we could actually shorten these referral times for patients and get the feedback and do any post-operative work inside the practice, taking away the stress. We are confident that this will add value.’
Doug concluded: ‘With all this disruptive change, there is only one answer, to get on with it, and if we do that I’m absolutely certain that the call from Government will come. We all need to put the accent on education, accreditation and experience wherever that is and work together as much as possible.
‘I will give it my best shot.’