Getting to know Nick Rumney
General Optical Council Promoting good eye care, protecting the public
Getting to know... Nick Rumney

Nick WEBNick is Managing Director of BBR Optometry, based in Hereford. He is a registrant member of Council.

Optometry is in Nick’s genes. His grandfather started work as an apprentice in Birmingham in 1912, his father became an optometrist after his aspirations for engineering were thwarted by WW2, so Nick was the only one who actually chose to become an optometrist.

Other members of his family were in ophthalmic manufacturing and his first Saturday job was glazing spectacles at 14. Coincidentally Nick was born on 7 July 1958, the day the Opticians Act was passed and the GOC came into being.

Nick lost the sight in his right eye aged five, and it was removed when he was 14. As he says: “During those years I had an insight into NHS ophthalmic outpatients departments – not a pretty sight in the 1960's!”

In 2000, Nick became involved in the work of the GOC. “I knew therapeutic prescribing was on the cards for optometrists but I lacked confidence in how the professional bodies were progressing this fundamental shift.

“I realised that the real power to influence lay in the GOC, that there were signs of change here (which hitherto had demonstrated inertia and lack of foresight) and so I stood for election. I had experience of optometry in both Australia and the USA, and felt that UK optometry was quite parochial at that time.”

He is clearly an ambassador for his profession and speaks forcefully about some of its good and not-so-good aspects.

“I focus on clinical outcomes and am enthralled by the advances that we now have at our disposal to examine eyes and how we might use them for patients’ benefit. For example it isn't just taking retinal images that is a good thing; it’s what you do with them that counts. “

“I am fascinated by optometry business models and the flawed contract that is the NHS GOS contract. I believe it’s possible to be clinically and commercially successful without following the corporate herd mentality, which is expressed in unimaginative commodity-led and destructive comparative advertising.

“I’m passionate about educating optometrists and dispensing opticians and in seeing people challenge and develop themselves. But I do think we need to grow beyond simply keeping up to date with CET and develop a proper career structure.

In Nick’s view there are three big issues currently facing the profession: “Firstly, there is massive potential for improved primary patient care by embracing the commissioning changes and joining together (as the Scottish and Welsh optometrists did) to argue for a grown up contract that is fit for purpose. Sometimes we give the impression that English optometry is not mature enough to do this and all credit to the Optical Confederation and LOCSU for breaking this mould.

“Secondly, and I choose my words carefully, there is a lack of clinical leadership in the corporate sector which ties one hand behind the back of every clinical negotiator. Given the resources available to the corporates I challenge every one of them to pick 100 of their best clinicians and train them as independent prescribers, give them the time and opportunity to stretch their horizons, and see what a difference we can make to patients’ lives.

“Thirdly, the funding of optometry as a non-clinical science discipline like physics in universities is holding back educational development in UK optometry. We lead the world and punch above our weight in research but lag behind providing undergraduate clinical experience as a direct result of this classification. Every other therapeutically legislated jurisdiction moves rapidly to new graduates qualifying as therapeutically trained. We cannot even aspire to that.

Nick is proud that he is about six months away from qualifying as an IP optometrist. “I think this fundamentally changes our relationship with patients, other professionals and the government. It will also change the relationship between optometrists themselves and could be a significant catalyst for change – with a fair wind and a bit of leadership.”

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eBulletin June 2011

1. Update on enhanced CET

2. Cosmetic contact lenses

3. Feedback on registrants' survey

4. Getting to know... Nick Rumney

5. News in brief