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Leading from the front: the NHS reforms coming in to effect in April this year mean that the need for the optical sector to develop leadership skills to engage within the new landscape has never been more critical. Gill Brabner (pictured), learning and development consultant for the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU), reports.

LOCSU IS once again supporting leadership development within Local Optical Committees (LOCs) and the wider optical community by funding 11 places on the 2013 LOCSU Leadership module at the Welsh Optometry Postgraduate Education Centre (WOPEC) for optical professionals, all of whom are working to increase the profile of community eye care.

An important topic for LOCSU's 2013 leadership group and all LOC officers is to examine how leaders build effective working relationships across the optical community, which supports collaborative working, enabling local leaders to influence the future of community eye care. These skills are crucial to the success of the Local Professional Networks (LPNs) for eye health being established. And an example of these skills in action can be found at Leicestershire LOC where the LPN for eye health has been awarded 80,000[pounds sterling] funding. Vinesh Patel, a member of the 2012 leadership cohort, explains: "We are at a stage now where a number of local performers have been selected to help develop five pathways. They will contribute (clinical input) into the task and finish groups who will report to the LPN steering group. Exciting times ahead. Congratulations to Leicestershire LOC."

Benefits of effective leadership for LOCs

Some LOCs find it hard to recruit active committee members, and this may mean that the responsibilities of committee life are shared by only a few members. This can make it very difficult to 'step back' and focus on the strategic direction of the LOC in the next two, five, or even 10 years.

Another aspect to leadership is developing a strategy for eye care and then ensuring that the LOC has the skills in place to deliver this strategy. Jenny Kitson, an optometrist working at her family practice in Leeds, became one of the youngest LOC chairs in the country when she was elected chair of the Leeds LOC while on the course, and clearly links the course to her new role.

She said: "The support provided by this leadership course gave me the confidence to take on a new role as chairman of my LOC."

Effective leadership not only benefits the individual in terms of developing their own role; it also has a positive result on the whole team (whether that be an LOC or a practice).

Ms Kitson goes on to explain how the challenges of her new role have been met by learning on the course. "I'm now fully submerged in the role of LOC chair. Everything about the role is so new to me and I'm always outside my comfort zone. Handling change and uncertainty is now something I feel an expert in. We have progressed so much over the past few months. We have four new members on the committee, and we are meeting with the clinical commissioning group (CCG) representative on eyes. We're running a Peer Review event to ease our optoms into the new CET cycle. As for developing other committee members, well that is fundamental and I encourage the committee to attend courses, learn new skills and take on more responsibility."

Alison Williams, chair of Cornwall LOC and a previous delegate is another LOC chair who has found that learning about leadership has benefited her LOC. She said: "This leadership course has given me the skills and insight to encourage the LOC into becoming an active team. By focusing on strategy, we now have a much clearer vision of what we are aiming to achieve and how to go about this so that Cornwall LOC has increasing input into the development of improved eye care pathways locally."

Developing the people around you is a key leadership responsibility along with succession planning to ensure that LOCs have a strong talent pool to draw on in the years ahead. Who are the future leaders of your committee? Can you spot future leaders out there in your optical community? LOCSU has recently been delivering a series of training days, with funding from the GOC, for optical professionals interested in becoming Peer Review facilitators. These events, which were heavily oversubscribed, explored the purpose of peer discussion and the role of the facilitator and, most importantly, allowed delegates to practice their facilitation skills with a group using case studies prepared for LOCSU by the College of Optometrists and ABDO. As one participant said: "This course has given me confidence to lead some peer discussion groups and has given me plenty of ideas."

The benefits of these events (and similar training courses) is that they allow the profession to identify emerging talent--people who enjoy managing and supporting groups of people and are happy to put themselves forward. It also pinpoints people who want to learn more about how to become an optical leader.

The desire for learning is another leadership trait. Members of the 2012 leadership group are continuing their learning by taking other modules within the PG Cert in Eye Care Governance at WOPEC. It is also important for leaders to develop their awareness of the impact they have on others. Jane Gray, a member of the 2012 leadership group, feels that the course gave her a better understanding of herself and also of others, and why they may react in the way they have. She explained this has enabled me to be a more effective member of my LOC, contribute with more confidence at the LEN, and continue to play a lead role within the team of optometry mentors."

And, of course, applying learning to real situations is essential for future leaders so taking an active role in your LOC is an ideal way to develop leadership skills and support your optical community.

To find out more about all the education and training on offer from LOCSU, visit www.locsu.co.uk and sign up for LOCSU News alerts to get the news on training as it is published.

Leadership skills for optical professionals

The Leadership Skills for Optical Professionals is a course organised by LOCSU through WOPEC and is a 20-credit postgraduate module which is part of WOPEC's MSc programme at Cardiff University. This course, which comprises a mixture of distance learning lectures and three compulsory weekend sessions in Cardiff, is designed to enable the practising optical professional to become an effective leader at regional level. The course covers:

* Successful negotiation with individuals and groups

* Mapping of regional eye care and developing and presenting a strategy for eye care

* Assessing own leadership strengths against the LOCSU leadership competency framework.

Although the deadline has passed for applications for LOCSU funding, if you (or your employer) are able to fund your own training place for this course which starts in March 2013, contact PGOptom@cardiff.ac.uk for more details.

2013 LOCSU leadership module participants

LOCSU leadership funded delegates on the 2013 leadership module at WOPEC for optical professionals are:

* Stewart Townsend, chair Staffordshire LOC

* Chris Newall, chair Dorset LOC

* Clare Young, East Lincolnshire LOC

* Nizz Sabir, Rotherham and Barnsley LOC

* Adam Holliday, chair of Nottinghamshire LOC

* Hayley Rowbotham, Ashton Leigh and Wigan LOC

* Kiranjeet Dahaley, Solihull LOC

* Frances Ramsey, Oxfordshire LOC

* Dharmesh Patel, LOCSU optical lead and a member of Stockport LOC

* Angela Henderson, optical adviser for North East and Cumbria

* Barry Duncan, ABDO

Gill Brabner is learning and development consultant for LOCSU, and runs a training and development company, Resound Training, which provides training for a wide variety of health and social care clients. She previously worked as head of workforce development at NHS West Essex Community Health Services.
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Title Annotation:UPDATE; National Health Service
Author:Brabner, Gill
Publication:Optometry Today
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 8, 2013
Words:1244
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