The majority of LOCs have their AGMs between the months of March and June and myself and some of my colleagues have been fortunate to have attended a great number of these meetings in recent weeks.
I am sure the significant period of change that the NHS is England is going through will not have escaped the notice of many, but what LOCs and the contractors and performers they represent really want to know is ‘how will it affect us from April 2013?’ Well we do know that General Ophthalmic Services will be the responsibility of the NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB), and that the NHSCB will have 50 local area teams.
Local structures are currently being worked on and the NHS Commissioning Board’s team is in consultation with the optical bodies, LOCSU and the National Optometric Advisors Association, as well as current PCTs, on the practical aspects of the new NHS that will impact on all of us. Watch this space!
Local Professional Networks (LPNs) for Eye Health will be pivotal to new local structures and the number of LOCs being asked by their PCTs to get involved in LPNs is growing by the week.
Meanwhile commissioning of ophthalmology and local pathways will be the responsibility of the emerging Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) from next April. The CCGs need to go through a process of authorisation where the NHS Commissioning Board will assess whether they are fit for purpose. There are four waves of authorisation between now and next January, with 35 CCGs having chosen to be assessed in the first wave.
At the Gloucestershire LOC AGM this week we heard from Dr Graham Mennie that Gloucestershire CCG is one of the first in the country to have achieved authorisation. Dr Mennie delivered welcome news to the 50 contractors and performers who attended the meeting that ophthalmology is one of the top 7 priorities for his CCG in the year ahead. Gloucestershire CCG will be building on existing good relationships and continuing to engage all stakeholders in eye health to improve local services and help them achieve the efficiencies that are being demanded by the Department of Health.
The other important piece of the jigsaw for eye health in the future is public health. Health and Wellbeing Boards are beginning to take shape up and down the country and for truly joined up thinking in commissioning, LOCs (via LPNs) also need to be involved with these groups in looking at the eye health needs of the local population.
Whilst much of the above brings plenty of opportunity for us, then there is no doubt it may also bring its fair share of challenge. In my mind it has never been more important to our professions that we have strong and active representative committees in every corner of the country. To those involved with LOCs please remember that LOCSU is here to help you in every aspect of the work that you and let us know if you need help or advice. To contractors and performers not involved at committee level, please maintain a dialogue with your committee, let them hear your views, respond to their requests for information and perhaps even consider whether you might be able to support some of the work they do.