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Building a collaborative future – exploring LOC regional forums

31 January 2020

The need for collaboration has been a common theme over the past year when debating how best to engage with the NHS long term plan to raise the profile of primary eyecare in future service delivery. Our column in Optician Magazine this month highlights a great example of collaboration from Surrey, where fifth year medical students at St George’s Teaching Hospital, South West London, spend time shadowing optometrist and Surrey LOC Chair Sara White, during their five-week stint in GP practice. The long-term aim of this initiative is to make connections with young medics to build constructive relationships that will pay dividends as their careers progress.

 

This activity shows the long-term approach that the sector must adopt to benefit further down the line. It is not just external relationships with commissioners, PCNs and the wider healthcare sector that we need to foster – we also need to make sure we’re making the best use of the skills and expertise residing in LOCs and sharing on-the-ground knowledge. That is the principle behind the discussions around the potential for LOC regional forums, following on from the discussions at the NOC, the first of which got under way in London recently.

The representatives of LOCs from the London region undertook in a constructive discussion about the scope and potential for a LOC regional forum, which will be entirely owned and driven by LOCs, with practical support from LOCSU’s Optical Leads and central team. The purpose behind the inaugural meeting was to identify areas of commonality, explore the benefits of sharing information regionally and the potential of cross-LOC activity to facilitate commissioning at scale.

Delegates recognised the advantages of sharing information about activities in neighbouring LOCs that could lead to opportunities for collaboration and efficiency.  One of the first initiatives was to establish a range of communications tools including email distribution lists and a WhatsApp group to keep dialogue underway between meetings.

Between now and the end of March, similar meetings will be taking place in other areas across the country.  The geography of each of area is designed to map directly onto the seven NHS regions, for most effective engagement with the NHS, should each area decide to create a regional forum.

Talking about the upcoming meetings LOCSU COO Richard Whittington suggests that it is valuable to think in advance about what your LOC can both contribute to and gain from a potential forum: “Think about where you may have similar activities to other LOCs that could benefit from a commonality of approach; where you have contacts in common, and the initiatives that you’re working on in your patch. Sharing these will help identify common ground and the potential for creating a single voice to promote LOC work on a regional level.”

On the rationale for building collaboration, Richard continues: “We work in an era where, technologically, open information-sharing is a way of life – all kinds of efficiencies and innovations happen as a result. We need to ensure that we carry that openness and visibility through into the practical communications between LOCs, LOCSU and other associated organisations to make the best use of their resources and expertise. Regional forums have the potential to be one of the vehicles for LOCs to achieve that.”

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