Ian is Optometry Scotland’s independent representative for the North. An Independent Prescribing and NESGAT qualified optometrist based in Dundee, Ian sits on the Tayside Area Optometric Committee.
As part of the OS Executive Committee, Ian will ensure the views and concerns of members within his regional cluster are heard at both a local and national level. We had a quick chat with Ian to help members learn more about their representative team.
How long have you been a member of Optometry Scotland?
I was one of the original members of Optometry Scotland! Back in 2006, I was around for the initial negotiations regarding the GOS eye examinations.
What made you want to become an independent representative?
Despite having been a member since the beginning, I think I realised it was time to get really involved in the politics (so to speak) when my son approached me about pursuing a career in optometry. I know the obstacles that I have faced, and the pressures placed on us as community healthcare providers – talking for both independent and multiple practices here. I wanted to ensure that I could offer him the best guidance possible as he embarks on this career path. If I could contribute to him building a successful life for himself within optometry by participating in the discussions that shape GOS fees and so on, then I wanted to do that.
How do you plan to support your regional cluster?
I think one thing the regions could really benefit from is more regular updates on Optometry Scotland activity. Particularly in the case of our independent members, to create a real sense of community I think they need to feel reassured that we are supporting them year-round. It’s been great to see more proactive communication coming from the Executive Committee this year as we embark on some exciting prospects, which as always include lobbying but also outreach to students at universities, for example. I’m more than happy to help spread the news of the great things we’re getting up to behind the scenes!
How can optometrists based in your region get in contact with you, and why should they?
I would love for optometrists to reach out via e-mail and I’m here to discuss any concerns or queries that members or non-members may have.
What are the biggest challenges facing your region that you would like to raise awareness of or tackle?
While all regions are facing the overarching issues of resource squeezes and a need for funding, the North has a unique issue with recruitment. As a number of practices, particularly independent practices, in the North of Scotland are based in rural areas, finding optometrists to fill job vacancies can be tough. I think a great way I can help members tackle this is by engaging early with university and pre-register optometrists and offering placements or opportunities to gain some experience. It’s a case of creating awareness that a healthy career can be built anywhere in Scotland, not just in highly populated cities or urban areas, lovely as they may be!
What makes your region unique, and how do you plan to celebrate that?
The North of Scotland tends to have exceptional links between optometrists and ophthalmologists. Due to the smaller numbers of practices in this area, we all get to know each other and offer support where we can. It creates a real sense of community and has also helped us to establish the Grampian Eye Health Network which has provided care for thousands of patients in the past 15 or so years. In turn, this helps keep patients in a primary care setting and lets us provide the highest standard of community eyecare. I want to ensure all practices within my region are aware of the benefits of such a network!
How would you like to see Independent Members of OS get more involved?
I think it’s a two-way street. We are in the early stages of establishing these new pathways of communication – the regional clusters and independent representatives being great examples of which – that I feel will really benefit members. Equally, I hope independent members in particular feel more confident coming forward with issues or opportunities once they are familiar with their first point of contact being their regional representative. From there, we can collaboratively lobby for solutions.
If there was one thing you would like independent practices to know about OS, what would it be?
I would want independent practices to know that Optometry Scotland is constantly engaging with stakeholders and government bodies on their behalf. Whilst it may not always be visible or in your face, that doesn’t mean we aren’t working hard to tackle the obstacles and pressure our members are facing day-to-day. If you look at the GOS fee increase of 2022 for example, it didn’t arrive out of nowhere - we were knocking at the Scottish Government’s door for months on end!