We have been spending a lot of time recently dissecting the NHS long term plan, exploring how the optical sector should best engage with stakeholders to increase its profile and the role of primary eye care in future service delivery. We often come back to the importance of collaboration and engagement, how we need to reach out to senior decision-makers in Primary Care Networks to ensure they understand what we can offer. However, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Therefore, while it’s urgent that the sector speaks with one voice to stakeholders that are shaping policy and pathways right now, there’s also work to do among entrants to the medical profession. By building awareness of the skills of primary eye care professionals among those starting their careers, we make a valuable investment in our reputation that will pay dividends in the years to come.

A great example of a collaboration aiming to achieve this is currently under way at Surrey LOC. Fifth year medical students at St George’s Teaching Hospital, South West London, spend time with optometrist and LOC Chair Sara White, during their five-week stint in GP practice. Students shadow Sara during patient appointments at Houghton White optometrists. In-appointment discussion and post-appointment debriefs provide the opportunity to demonstrate how wide-ranging eye problems can be, the in-depth knowledge that optometrists have of eyes and how they diagnose and manage conditions. This is an important supplement to the limited time medical students spend studying eyes and the aim is that this awareness of optometrist skills will stay with them for the future.

This is an excellent example of an initiative that builds connections between primary eye care and early career medical professionals to sow the seeds of collaboration; it’s something we should aim to replicate to build strong intra-sector links that will bear fruit in future.