5 February 2024

Helen Stanforth HonMCOptom: 1946-2023

We are saddened to hear of the death of Helen Stanforth HonMCOptom in July 2023.

Miss Helen Stanforth died following a short illness on 22 July 2023, just before her 77th birthday. She served the College in a variety of senior administrative roles from 1990 until 2003 and was in recent times the sole surviving representative in the Honorary Membership category of the College.

As our Assistant Secretary (Professional), Helen worked with Beryl Tristram to look after the College’s work in the field of professional and practice standards. This involved working closely with the Professional Adviser, Dr Philip Cole, including having an oversight on disciplinary matters. It was a busy time given that, in the early 1990s, the number of complaints against members was increasing year-on-year. Not only did this mean more admin, but also initiatives had to be put in place to reduce the number of complaints and improve public confidence in the profession. 

Helen pioneered the introduction of Quality Assurance. She also launched the Clinical Practice Survey, which in turn led to the local Peer Review schemes. She was the Director responsible for managing the new Lay Advisory Panel (LAP) when it was established in 1999. The LAP was to comprise up to seven lay members and four optometrist members, three of whom would be Council members. During its first year the LAP was chaired by Dr Patricia Wilkie, who had also chaired the Royal College of General Practitioners Patients’ Liaison Group. Pat and Helen provided expert guidance and helped establish the LAP as a model of lay input to the governance of a professional qualifying association. By 2005 Lay members of the main statutory committees no longer held ‘observer’ status and were granted full voting rights.

Quality Assurance helps people running practices to set down their procedures and ask themselves why do things in that way
Helen Stanforth HonMCOptom

Helen also managed the College’s work on British Standards and worked with the Royal College of Ophthalmologists on shared care protocols. She was part of a College team that worked jointly with the Association of Optometrists to conduct a series of Health Authority Roadshows in 1996. As Head of Professional Services she oversaw the production of a Primary Eye Care leaflet (2002) and one of her last contributions was to express the College's disappointment at the absence of any specific reference to children's eye care in the government's National Service Framework for Children.

After retiring, in September 2003, Helen continued to serve the College in various ways, most notably as a College-nominated Trustee of the Benevolent Fund, until 2006, and then, as part of the College Governance Group, she was instrumental in conducting a review of the College committee structure, reporting in early 2007. Her former post of Head of Professional Standards was not immediately replaced, the work being divided between the Optometric adviser, Dr Susan Blakeney FCOptom and the CEO, pending the new Director appointment. This ultimately led to the enhanced role of what is now the Clinical Advice service.

Helen was clothed as a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers in 1995 and was appointed to the rare honour of Honorary Member of the College in 2008.