Meet the LOCSU team… Zoe Richmond
28 June 2019
Zoe Richmond’s family initially tried to dissuade her from studying Optometry, but after gaining a first class degree from Bradford University and joining a small independent North Yorkshire practice, she has never looked back…
Now after 25 years in practice and experience from a wealth of roles across the optical industry, Zoe is taking on a new challenge heading up the Optical Lead team at LOCSU. We caught up with her to find out about her life in optometry and the new role ahead.
Zoe’s journey into the optical sector started at school. She had a keen interest in science but didn’t want to take the prescribed route: “Girls who were keen on science were being encouraged to get into engineering and I didn’t want to be told what to do. I looked at my options and the logical choice was the health sector. I had no interest in being a GP or a dentist so, almost by a process of elimination, I decided on optometry.”
Initially Zoe’s family wasn’t so sure: “They thought I would be better taking a less specialised degree such as Biology. They were worried that I would close the door to other careers by choosing such a specific degree. Luckily I stuck to my guns and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, although I somewhat fell into the sector, I’ve encouraged and supported others into optometry who have made their decision based on my experience.”
On graduation, Zoe had a choice of practices in which to complete her pre-registration year. “I was fortunate to be able to choose a practice that was small, independent and had the culture I was looking for. I have found it rewarding to build up a client base over the years. Although we may only see some clients every other year, in my experience patients appreciate the relationship and continuity of care provided within primary care optical practice. I have very much enjoyed the day-to-day optometry role.”
What really set the tone for Zoe’s career development, however, was her mentor’s encouragement to get involved in the wider optical and healthcare community.
“That initial pre-registration year was transformative,” Zoe recalls. My mentor was himself keenly involved and active in the GOC and LOC and made me aware that there were so many broader opportunities for development. I was never going to be a nine-to-five sort of person, so I took every chance I could to get involved and meet people who shared my passion for the sector.”
Zoe became part of the LOC and was quickly appointed as optometric adviser to the local health authority to support eyecare development and pathway redesign. She says, “Keenly supported by my LOC, I just went headfirst into it and learned by experience.”
Zoe was appointed optometric adviser across Cumbria and the North East and then moved into working more closely with LOCSU, becoming one of the first groups of leads providing hands-on support to LOCs back in 2011. She has remained part of the group and is now also LOCSU’s interim Clinical Director. This makes her the perfect person to lead LOCSU’s new team of Optical Leads. She is clear about challenges facing the sector, the role of LOCs and the Optical Lead team in supporting them:
“Navigating NHS reconfiguration is going to be the defining challenge. LOCs need to engage at all levels of the new structure. We need to be having many conversations at Primary Care Network level and this is ideal for LOCs because we are local organisations with good relationships already.”
“Our Optical leads will support LOCs to better understand the NHS structure, identify how best to interact and where to influence to best achieve outcomes for their members. They bring experience and are well placed to help identify new opportunities in the local area but will also support the LOCs to refocus on their core functions.”
When Zoe is not busy in practice and working with LOCSU, she likes nothing better than to go out for a run with her family – although she admits that her children now outpace her: “They’re very sporty and enthusiastic so they show me up!” She trains as part of a running club but is not really interested in the competitive side of things: “I enjoy the training and socialising but leave the races to the others!” Her favourite holiday location is Switzerland’s Zermatt: “It’s a place I would return to again and again. I love walking in the mountains, which is a good thing as I also love the regional food!”
Zoe’s career so far is testament to the variety of opportunities that the optical sector offers. Her advice to anyone interested in developing their role is: “Get involved with your LOC, become a committee member and just look out for chances to say ‘Yes’ to new experiences.”