In the UK the upcoming snap general election is dominating the news, and also the conversation in my test room. All political parties are starting to announce their own plans for the next five years of government, in the form of their manifestos, bursting with promises and pledges, if they are elected to the top job in Parliament.

This year the political landscape has been shattered by the additional complexity of Brexit, and the upcoming two-year-long negotiations with the EU since the triggering of Article 50. When patients choose to discuss politics in the test room with me, the discussion is often centred on uncertainty of what the future will look like.

Of course, as the low voter turnout in the recent local elections could indicate, there is also ambivalence with the election process itself. Patients have spoken to me about a lack of trust in politicians due to them not fulfilling their promises in the past, and as a result they now hold the view that all politicians are the same.

Before you stop reading, I am not about to turn this column into a political platform. But the recent coverage of the general election has made me think about the future of our profession and the unwritten promises that we as providers of optical and hearing services make to every patient who chooses us to look after their needs, and whether we manage to live up to expectations or not? Do our customers really think all opticians and audiologists are the same? If we fail to fulfil our promises will they happily walk out the door, down the high street to another provider, never to return?

So, what would my own personal and practice manifesto to our patients look like?

Well our company vision statement is a pretty good place to start: ‘to passionately provide best value eyecare and hearcare to everyone, simply, clearly and consistently, exceeding customer expectations every time’. Wow! As long as we achieve this statement of intent we will never have any disappointed patients. So how can we achieve such lofty goals? In reality, to have any chance of achieving our vision involves an incredible amount of hard work from every member of the team.

Every member of the store team has their own personal manifesto relating to their own relationship with our patients and their job role within the practice. There cannot possibly be a one-size-fits-all approach that suits everyone. Each manifesto is tailored depending on an individual’s professional role, their support team, and the patient demographic of the practice.

In my practice, and with respect to my role as an optometrist, if I were to create my own personal manifesto to my patients, it would probably look something like this:

I promise to:

  • Take a genuine interest in each of my patient’s individual needs and preferences.
  • Be thorough and accurate in my examinations.
  • Clearly discuss each individual sight test result and offer a bespoke solution.
  • Continue to keep abreast of new techniques and developments in the profession.
  • Work side by side with my non-clinical team to fulfil these promises.
  • If a patient is not satisfied for any reason put it right immediately.

By achieving the declarations in the manifesto, I would hope to give my patients no doubt that they have been well looked after, and in doing so build trusting relationships for years to come.

When looking to the future of optometry we can take lessons from the past. Almost on a daily basis I have patients say how impressed they are with the thoroughness of the eye examination and the technology used during the assessment.

Should this come as a surprise? Instead of the ophthalmoscope we now use Volk lenses and other imaging technology. Instead of trial frames we use phoropters, and digitised acuity charts. Instead of referring patients who present with minor eye conditions to their GP or local HES we now see and advise the vast majority of them about treatments on the high street.

The rate of change in the profession isn’t going to slow down, and the scope of what we are able to do in the future is vast. In times of uncertainty we can provide stability by continuing to offer our patients the best care and services for their eyes and ears today, alongside our preparations for tomorrow.

Ross Campbell is ophthalmic director of Specsavers, Richmond, North Yorkshire.