Delegates at the Specsavers UK Professional Advancement Conference (PAC), which was held on Sunday, 8 October 2017 at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham, England, were encouraged not only to extend their clinical skills to transform their patients’ lives but also their own professional aspirations.

PAC is one of the largest one-day optical clinical conferences in Europe and is open to all UK optical professionals – both Specsavers and non-Specsavers.

This year’s conference featured a varied program of discussion workshops, peer discussions, and lectures for optometrists, as well as dedicated sessions on OCT.

Elsewhere, sessions were held for qualified and trainee dispensing opticians and contact lens opticians, and the conference also included an audiology track.

In an optics program that reflected increased collaboration between optometry and ophthalmology, there were presentations on ocular surface disease, post-surgical glaucoma complications and cataract follow-up, delivered by senior ophthalmologists.

OCT proved predictably popular, with a full day of OCT workshops offering an introduction to the subject, as well as discussing case studies and the interpretation of images, while Specsavers UK’s two OCT suppliers – Nidek and Heidelberg Engineering – provided practical hands-on experience of their equipment in a series of drop-in sessions.

As well as a raft of product suppliers, this year’s conference joined forces with respected organisations such as the College of the Optometrists, the British Contact Lens Association and the Royal National Institute of Blind People to deliver up-to-the-minute expertise on a huge variety of topics, including dry eye management, specialist contact lens fitting, binocular vision abnormalities in children, visual disturbance, and the causes and management of non-tolerance in dispensing.

These were mainly delivered in the form of discussion workshops, giving practitioners the opportunity to access a wide network of their own peers throughout the day.

In the audiology track, communication was the theme for the day with a program that touched on all aspects of day-to-day work for both qualified and trainee hearing aid dispensers and hearing care assistants. Delegates could choose from topics including family-centred care, speech audiometry, telecare and remote programming and – from the Alzheimer’s Society – a presentation on communicating with the dementia patient.

There were also two audiology product launches – Sivantos’ Signia Pure 13 BT primax and Phonak’s Audeo B Direct – plus the opportunity to network and catch up on the latest product knowledge with Specsavers UK’s audiology suppliers.

Professional influence
This year’s PAC was attended by more than 2,200 optometrists, dispensing opticians and audiology professionals – including 165 non-Specsavers optometrists.

Specsavers UK Clinical Services Director Giles Edmonds said afterwards, “The sheer size and breadth of our PAC program really reflects the breadth of interests and opportunities that today’s practitioner has available to them.

“This is the largest event of its kind in the UK, but actually what we’ve encouraged today is individual interactions – whether that be exchanging best practice with colleagues, meeting suppliers, finding out more about enhanced ophthalmic services, learning about delivering domiciliary or audiology, or discussing how to develop yourself professionally. The message has been ‘All the expertise is here under one roof, so come and chat’ – and it’s been fantastic to see that happening throughout the day.

“So many of the presenters and facilitators at PAC are Specsavers clinicians who are lecturers in their own right, hospital optometrists, examiners, WOPEC (Wales Optometry Postgraduate Education Centre) assessors, clinical leads in their own store or subject experts in their chosen field. Their enthusiasm is contagious and provides a great example of how any practitioner, with the right motivation and support, can influence our profession going forward.”

The PAC is the largest of 13 regional conference events being held across the UK in 2017 and forms part of the global series of Specsavers clinical conferences taking place in seven different countries around the world during September and October – providing clinical education to more than 6,500 optical and audiology professionals.

The Australian and New Zealand Specsavers Clinical Conference took place in Melbourne from 2 to 3 October 2017.