Thank you to Maria McAllister for sharing her view ‘From the High Street’ (Optician, 08.04.22). Maria touched on the gradual return to some type of ‘new normal’ as we incorporate the good practice we have developed over the past two years. Maria showed perfect timing with the College of Optometrists announcing that the UK will transition to green phase from May 10. The guidance is clear that with new variants, Covid-19 will be a serious disease for many years to come.

In April, I had the opportunity to attend 100% Optical and was reminded of the great steps we are taking to develop our expertise and service delivery. This year’s event was extra special as we were able to meet face-to-face after a two-year hiatus. The initial apprehension soon disappeared as I met with fellow clinicians, and we shared experiences and lessons learned during the pandemic.

We talked about the greeting etiquette of the ‘new normal’ – hesitating handshakes, fist/elbow bumps, to a simple nod and smile. It was encouraging to share ideas and simply discuss our experiences of how we stayed focused on the common goal of providing high quality patient care. Although everyone is on their own journey, we were united in our eagerness to develop our skills through CPD and explore the latest innovations. We had the opportunity to talk with innovators and educators and we met clinicians working in independent practices, domiciliary services, hospitals, other multiples, even some from the other side of the world. We felt proud of our individual efforts to remain open and ready to serve our patients when they needed us most. We believe this elevated our position as important primary and secondary health care providers.

But what is next? Have we done enough to raise our professional profile? I feel we have been recognised and now it’s up to us to work together to build on this momentum. Individual conversations with so many different practitioners, business owners and leaders were engaging and inspiring. We eagerly shared our ideas of best practice because we have been isolated for so long. We need to maintain this level of dialogue because this will ultimately benefit our patients and our profession.

As you can imagine, I walked away from the three-day event energised by so many ideas of ways we can all make our own contributions through actions like reviewing our own daily practice, more CPD, more peer discussion and more community collaboration. Personally, I am committed to using clinical outcomes to improve service quality. This data helps me to develop true reflective practice and demonstrate the value of optometry. As we all continue to develop our expertise we will earn and retain our seat at the tables where decisions are made that advance our amazing profession.

Before I returned to my own practice in Daventry, I took time out to visit three separate colleagues and their teams across London. It was a privilege to spend time at the heart of these communities with clinicians delivering primary care on the high street and through domiciliary services. They continue to build better relationships with local eye hospitals and other local healthcare providers. This important work means they are involved in community healthcare decisions and are well placed to have their say on the changes we all know are coming.

I found these visits heart-warming and inspirational. There was laughter and tears as I heard about how these teams have been heroes during the past two years. So many stories and experiences were shared as we reflected on what we have all been through. Together, we concluded that the experience has made us stronger and more resilient.

  • Satvinder Singh Soomal is head of clinical optometry engagement and progression at Specsavers UK & ROI.