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“A single voice, a united message and a single settled purpose”

22 November 2019

Over 200 delegates from 66 LOCs participated in an engaging and thought-provoking National Optical Conference from 13-14 November.

NHS speakers presented opportunities as well as challenges for the optical sector and there is a clear expectation of engagement from the sector as part of NHS reform, particularly working with PCNs.  The challenge for the sector is to formulate and articulate our offer in a consistent and joined-up way.


Matt Neligan, Director for Primary Care Commissioning and Transformation at NHS England and NHS Improvement, gave an inspiring speech outlining the challenges facing the NHS, and an overview of the Long Term Plan at what was described as “a critical moment in time”. Planned developments for the optical sector include more consistency of commissioning as well as improvements in digital connectivity. A number of challenges were laid down to the sector, including constructing and defining our offer to PCNs building on the high-quality service and access already being delivered.


Professor James Kingsland, OBE, presented the second keynote speech titled “What are PCNs and why are they important?” With overburdened hospital opthamology departments and GPs, the opportunity to deliver a broader range of optical services via primary care has clearly been recognised. The challenge, consistent with that presented by Matt Neligan, was is now to define how to translate this opportunity into reality, working with PCNs. A key element of Professor Kingsland’s presentation was the leadership and cultural transformation needed to facilitate these changes, which are significant and should not be underestimated.

The two keynote presentations were followed by an on-stage interactive panel discussion, facilitated by Richard Whittington, LOCSU COO. A high volume of challenging questions were submitted by delegates, including many questions relating to PCNs. Overall the panel felt that here is a real opportunity for the sector to bring energy, enthusiasm, vision and a creative offer to the table for discussions with PCNs.

The panel discussion was followed by the first of two sets of facilitated discussion sessions covering 6 topics:

  • Clinical Pathway Development – What opportunities and ideas are there for us to deliver different and/or broader services to our patients?
  • How will LOCs engage with Primary Care Networks in order to influence commissioning intentions?
  • LOCSU Asks – How would you like LOCSU to support you in delivering the (prioritised) common themes LOCs identified?
  • LOCSU Team & Future Development – What could LOCSU look like in the future (within its current remit – ‘To Support LOCs in their activities’)?
  • Regional LOC Forums – What is the role of Regional LOC Forums?
  • STPs/ICPs – What does the NHS transformation mean and how do we engage with the whole NHS?

There was great engagement and participation across all the groups, leading to some lively debate and the generation of lots of practical ideas. All the information captured will be written up and distributed in the early 2020 along with how the ideas are being considered for future action plans.

During the refreshment breaks, delegates were able to tour the exhibitors stands.  This year’s external exhibitors were Abacus Professions Finance, AOP, Bondeye, CegedimRX, Eyecon Vision, Menicon, Myers La Roche, Ocusoft, Optinet, Optos, PCSE, Scope Opthalmics, SeeAbility and Visufarma.


The final lecture of the conference was given by Richard Everitt, Programme Manager for Optical Services Commissioning for NHS England and NHS Improvement, who presented the NHS England Special School Eyecare Programme.  The first phase will deliver sight tests and dispense glasses on school premises, enabling a much larger proportion of children who attend special schools to receive a sight test.  The service is being commissioned via NHS England via the GOS contract and early adopter schools and practitioners are currently being recruited.


Richard Whittington’s closing speech called for delegates to build on the participation and collaboration of delegates at the NOC and to take the message that the NHS want us to engage back to colleagues in practice.  Richard said that the sector can only effectively engage with the NHS if we adopt “a single voice, a united message and a single settled purpose – and I hope that’s what we’ve started today”


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