Alcon’s role in putting together its eponymous conversation (In Focus) deserves recognition for creating a culture of communication so sadly lacking within optics.

The delicious irony of the Alconversation is that the primary finding of the forum is the need for optics to communicate. It certainly succeeded in making that happen.

The Alconversation provides the opportunity for questions to be posed to representatives of the optical bodies and an ophthalmologist was added to broaden the spread of opinion. Alcon had asked for the discussion to be positive and forward-looking with the focus on what had gone well during the year in review rather than looking to apportion blame. From the podium there was unanimity on topics such as better working with ophthalmology, communicating eye care messages to the public and promotion of products.

The event also gave the opportunity for further discussion once the delegates had climbed from the podium. With official hats taken off there was an opportunity for a more frank exchange of views. I didn’t sense an air of blame only realisation that change will require some level of radical action. Whether technology or a break with the NHS will enable that change is moot but there are fundamentals that cropped up over and over again in conversation.

Among those were the need for optics to have associations that could effectively represent the profession where it mattered: in Parliament and in public opinion. Another big topic was the business and the workforce. What do those coming into optics today want the profession to look like in 20 years’ time? What will the retail business look like? Do optometry undergraduates see it as a vocation?

These are big, scary questions but ones the profession can control if it talks and has leaders ready to take radical action.