Action to foster the next generation of independent opticians has been promoted by a range of organisations and backed by business.

In an uncharacteristic outbreak of collaboration and joined-up thinking, several optical support bodies have pooled their resources to offer practical help and assistance to young optical professionals looking to own their own business (In Focus page 6).

At Optrafair last year the Association of Independent Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians (AIO) brought together a range of support bodies to form the AIO Practice Support Network.

Last week ABDO opened the doors of its swanky new National Resource Centre in Birmingham for an event seeking to help would-be independents. Providing the help and advice were member organisations of the Network: Eyeplan, National Eyecare Group, the Seiko-backed Specs Network and Myers La Roche. Joining them were Sight Care and Storm which together are also offering help to burgeoning indies.

The wannabe indies at the event included DOs and locums and those offering help from the dispensing or non-professional side of optics. The driving force behind the Network, AIO’s Mike Ockenden, is not an optical professional.

The importance of a healthy independent sector can’t be understated. Without it the supply industry is at the mercy of a handful of buyers, without it the multiple sector will end up in a constant marketing and price war and without it employment opportunity and diversity for patients and professionals are truncated.

Nurturing the next generation of independents is an absolute priority – a priority all profession bodies should be investing heavily in, right now, to ensure young professionals have the option of an independent career and retirees have the chance to place the business they have built into safe, independent hands.