Region update: Midlands and East Anglia

Richard Rawlinson FBDO
ABDO regional lead, North, Midlands and East Anglia

Sarah StokesIt’s been a busy 12 months within the Midlands and East Anglia region.

Mike Cody (Staffordshire) and Sarah Stokes (Cambridgeshire – pictured) have joined the regional sub lead (SRL) team, which also includes Simone Mason, Saima Begum, Lesley Parkinson, Kimberley O’Donnell, Kate Fenn and Ian Sexton. The valued support of the SRLs has been pivotal in the support of members nationally and throughout the region.

We now have ABDO members on 80 per cent of local optical committees (LOCs) across the Midlands and Anglia region. Many of these have been co-opted onto the committees, rather than elected as a contractor or contractor representative. Feedback from LOC chairs has been really positive and the contribution that a dispensing optician can make to an LOC has proved to be valuable and essential to the development of local services. A number of our members now hold officer positions within their LOC, and I’m delighted to report that Lesley Parkinson is currently interim chair of Derbyshire LOC.

In November, Simone Mason addressed more than 150 delegates at the National Optical Conference to talk about the importance of leadership training and support available for LOC members. This goes to show how DOs are now leading the way within the optical profession.

We still have much work to do, and it will be essential to fill the gaps in the LOC network where we currently have no representation. We also need to ensure that all DOs are aware of what their LOC does, and how important it is to engage with committee members to ensure our voice is heard.

NHS England has established regional local eye health networks (LEHN) to provide an opportunity for eye health professionals, together with patients and the voluntary sector, to show leadership, identify priorities and re-design services and pathways to meet patient and population needs. It is essential that DOs have a voice within these networks. Our expertise and knowledge of general and hospital paediatric dispensing, along with our ability to understand and support patients with low vision, provides a resource that LEHNs should be welcoming and embracing.

I am delighted to report that over the past year, a number of DOs have been invited to join LEHNs. In the West Midlands, Simone Mason and Saima Begum have become key members of the West Midlands LEHN – and the hard work of Claire Roberts (LEHN chair) should be acknowledged for her support of DOs and her recognition of the vital role we can play in supporting local development of services. Sarah Stokes has also been invited to contribute to the work of the East Anglia LEHN.

Members will be aware of the essential role the ABDO CET team has played in ensuring that there have been plenty of CET events over the past three years. Meeting and talking to members forms an essential part of the regional team’s remit. Unless we know what concerns and issues our members have, how can we develop strategies for support?

Almost every CET event over the past 12 months has had support from the regional team and through this engagement, we have identified a number of members who wish to play a greater role in supporting our Association, either with future CET events or in an active role enhancing our profession at various levels. As a member organisation, it is vital that we are inclusive for all those who wish to make a difference and take our profession forward.

There is no doubt that our profession will come under increased pressure as the move towards assisted technology within the healthcare sector increases.  The dispensing of spectacles will not be immune to the changes ahead and we need to shout very loudly about what we do well and protect our registered status. The role of a DO and contact lens optician is changing, and the full extent of our clinical knowledge and skillset should allow us to move forwards knowing that we have a vital role to play within the eyecare services of the future.

The regional teams are preparing for this and with the support of all within our profession, we will continue to make a difference to lives of our patients and the businesses we work for.

Anyone wishing to support the Midlands and Anglia team can contact me at