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The future of the future

Wading through 64 pages of data and graphs in the General Optical Council’s first ever business registrant survey has been quite some going, but there are some notable findings. I don’t want to spoil next week’s In

Focus, which will drill down into the findings of the report, but one or two aspects resonated more than others.

Financial pressures associated with NHS care continues to be a problem. Almost all of the business registrants surveyed had contracts with NHS England or local health boards, but independents were twice as likely as multiples to have more than 70% of their sight tests funded by the NHS. Given the wider availability of free eye tests in the multiple segment, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but pressures on NHS remuneration looks to be driving innovation and creating barriers.

Changes in NHS and government commissioning of optical services has been a driving factor in businesses’ decision to innovate over the past three years for 91% of registrants surveyed. To me, that’s 91% of businesses futureproofing themselves for significantly reduced levels of NHS services because of additional barriers that have restricted innovation. Barriers like the lack of NHS IT connectivity to ophthalmology departments, cited by 91% of those surveyed as an important factor for stagnant innovation over the past three years.

Just how hard the independent sector is being squeezed is borne out by the data on business performance and expectations. Ten percent of the independent sector said business had declined in the past 12 months, with an additional 46% reporting stability and 44% in growth. In contrast, 60% of multiples reported business growth during the same period.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months, just half of independent business owners said they expected growth in their businesses, with 3% predicting they would be sold or merged and 1% expecting to close down altogether. Of all the perceived threats, government funding of sight tests ranked highest, with 62% indicating it would be very challenging going forward, which is putting it mildly.



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Optician is the weekly, paid-for information source for optometrists, dispensing opticians and the optical industr y. For 133 years Optician has been the independent voice for eye care professionals, students and business owners offering breaking news, analysis and education. In print and online, Optician provides an array of clinical, business and technology ar ticles, comprehensive CPD coverage along with the ver y latest in contact lenses, frame fashion trends and spectacle lens technology. Optician offers advice on careers and carries hundreds of job oppor tunities ever y week. Optician provides its readers with essential business help and offers a forum for eye care professionals and others in the market.

3 May 2024 OPTICIAN 3

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