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Meet the LOCSU team – Richard Knight

26 July 2019

A historian on a mission to make a difference in the future, Richard is a target-driven person who likes to be busy and have a positive impact.

News Richard Knight


As Head of Policy for LOCSU he is at the forefront of a raft of projects ranging from creating and developing policies, to responding to government consultations and liaising with stakeholders in the optical sector. He combines this with a passion for History, which sees him studying part time for a PhD on Britain in the American Civil War at Queen Mary’s University of London, alongside producing techno dance music in his small studio and keeping fit through martial art Krav Maga.

“I like to have targets and a purpose in life,” says Richard. “Sitting around and waiting to retire is just not for me.”

Richard joined LOCSU six years ago from his former position as Head of Policy at a financial services membership body. While he enjoyed this role, he was keen to find a post that was more public service-focused. LOCSU appealed because of the large challenges being taken on by a small organisation: “I’ve always preferred working in a smaller organisation where you’re more than a cog in a machine. LOCSU was relatively new and I could see the opportunity to play a decisive role. I like to see the work I do having a demonstrably positive real-world effect.”

Richard’s work comes under two broad areas. First there is general operational work such as supporting LOCs with enquiries around NHS processes and contracting; developing compliance tools such as Quality in Optometry (QIO); undertaking the data repository project and supporting commissioning leads and LOCs with procurement activities.

The second strand is his work on policy creation and managing policy updates to ensure they’re relevant and applicable to real life. He carries out numerous presentations on policy issues to LOCs, partner organisations such as AOP, ABDO and FODO and external bodies and he liaises with the All-party Parliamentary Group on vision and other ophthalmic public health groups. He also leads on LOCSU’s responses to government consultations. He says: “We’re a relatively small body aiming to make a big difference for LOCs and building relationships with stakeholders is an important part of that.”

On the challenges facing the sector, Richard says: “The fundamental challenge for the whole of healthcare is promoting a mindset change in the public from: ‘the NHS will fix me’ towards: ‘what can I do to improve my situation to mitigate the need that I might need fixing?’ Without this paradigm shift we will struggle to provide healthcare in the way that we have previously.”

Within that Richard sees particular challenges for the optical sector: “We are unusual because we straddle the gap between private and public sector and we have to be mindful of that. There’s the sense among the public that opticians are on the High Street just to sell glasses, when the capability is so much greater. We need to produce a synthesis of public-private provision and offer a clinical-based service delivery model. The demand is there – people want to be seen locally and at their convenience. I’m a firm advocate of local community space healthcare and making that mindset shift from reactive to more proactive health management.”

Richard may spend much of his time reading and analysing the complex and lengthy documents associated with policy management, but his childhood interests lay in a different direction: “I wanted to play for Spurs or be a fast bowler for England, but sadly lack of sporting prowess put paid to that idea.”

Having abandoned his dream in favour of a passion for history, Richard gained an undergraduate degree from the University of Leeds and a Masters from SOAS in London. He’s now pursuing a PhD and finds that his policy research and analytical skills gain a boost from his study. “The subjects are very different, but I find there’s a crossover and the skills reinforce each other. It helps me become more concise in my writing and identify the important arguments more quickly.”

As a historian, Richard’s dream dinner party guests read like a who’s who of political power-players and thinkers down the ages. “I’d have former Prime ministers William Gladstone and Tony Blair, as well as Cleopatra and Elizabeth I, plus Roman philosopher and politician Cicero. Then, because things might get a bit heavy, I’d include my boyhood hero, Gary Lineker.”

Aside from his interest in music production and the martial art Krav Maga, Richard is also fully occupied with his two young daughters. Although he loves to travel, family holiday at the moment revolve around activities for the girls: “As long as there’s a pool and a lot of outside space, they’re happy!”

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