Working for an independent practice

Working for a community independent means you work in a practice that generally offers primary care to patients. It will usually be a single practice, owner-managed, but it could be part of a small regional group or chain of perhaps two or three practices.

Job roles

  • Owner – the proprietor of the business. This can sometimes be a partnership
  • Manager – usually the owner but in a small chain the manager would oversee the practice
  • Supervisor – supervises pre-registration trainees (this role may be undertaken by the manager)
  • Specialist role – the manager, or other members of staff, might offer community services, for example children’s eye care, contact lens care or low vision specialism.

Since the independent practice will have a smaller team than a community multiple, the job role might also include: day-to-day business management; finance; marketing; and human resources.

Success requirements

  • Being flexible
  • Being able to get along with a small team.


Some independent practices will see opportunities to get involved in new services or ways of delivering services, such as community based secondary care and shared care schemes. These might include running glaucoma or macular clinics where patients can be managed in the community, with liaison and information shared with the local hospital eye service.

You might also be able to extend your community eye care practice by developing particular clinical skills, such as paediatric eye care. Often independent practitioners will have gained this skill in the hospital eye service and have the confidence to manage children in practice.

Polly Dulley MCOptom

Co-owner and director of an independent practice

Current job role

“I'm the co-owner and director of my own practice. I do patient examinations two or three days per week and about a quarter of my patients are paediatrics. I’ve made it my business to introduce myself to local allied healthcare professionals like GPs, health visitors and SENCOS in schools and I offer my services to go and talk in schools.

Training and qualifications

These might include:

  • Audit and practice-based research
  • Being an ambassador for a supplier in contact lenses or diagnostic imaging
  • Business management or advanced learning such as an MBA
  • Clinical decision making
  • Clinical governance
  • Clinical and patient management skills and topics, such as AMD, cataracts, contact lenses, glaucoma, orthokeratology, and using OCT equipment and interpreting results
  • Communication skills
  • People management.

In-house training examples:

  • by lens or equipment manufacturers
  • staff members cascading their knowledge to other members of the team.

Training outside the practice examples:

  • clinical conferences and workshops
  • local optical committees
  • universities.

College events help you learn, network and gain CPD points. We have a blended programme of both online and in-person events which include: Optometry Tomorrow - our annual national conference and exhibition; peer reviews; webinars; CPD events tailored to Independent Prescribers; and much more.

Online learning, using College and Docet materials can be an efficient way of keeping your skills up-to-date, as well as earning CPD points. The College offers training for assessor, examiner and supervisor roles.

There are a number of College-accredited higher qualifications, covering the following topics:

  • contact lens practice
  • glaucoma
  • low vision
  • medical retina
  • paediatric eye care.

The College also offers an Independent Prescribing (IP) qualification. This enables optometrists to clinically assess a patient, establish a diagnosis, determine the clinical management required and prescribe where necessary.