Disaster into opportunity

30 July 2020
Summer 2020

Kieran Loft MCOptom turns problems into potential.

The world has seen an awful lot of upheaval recently. The COVID-19 lockdown has lasted many months, and eye care is only just starting to move back towards normal provision. However, it’s likely that the old ways of doing things will be changed forever as a result of COVID. Perhaps through this crisis we can seize new opportunities to improve not just eye care, but many aspects of society.

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Many educational establishments have rapidly changed the way they provide courses because of lockdown. The way we learn has been slowly changing since the development of the internet; however, COVID has rapidly accelerated the use of digital teaching tools. Adrian O’Dowd explores what this means in the context of optometry, and gives an interesting insight into modern educational tools. While a 100% online model is probably not suitable for a technical health science such as optometry, there are many positives that can be taken forwards and further developed to improve the quality of educational materials and access to learning for the future.

Another positive result of lockdown is the improvement in the environment. Outside air pollution has plummeted as a result of reduced travel, and wildlife is thriving while humans stay confined to their homes. In this issue, we examine the role of air pollution in ocular health. Becky McCall explains the common pollutants that might be influencing the health of our eyes. Although it’s difficult to tease apart the interactions of lifestyle, access to healthcare, and air pollution in rural and urban populations, evidence appears to be mounting. Perhaps lockdown will help people to move away from some of the damaging practices that have snuck into modern life – unnecessary car trips, long-haul flights for exotic holidays every year, and the widespread use of harmful chemicals in everything from carpets to farming.

Making your practice an inclusive space for patients and staff is simple and could make a world of difference

What other positive change can we bring to society? Lockdown continued into June, the month traditionally marked as LGBT+ Pride month, commemorating the Stonewall riots of June 1969. While a lot has changed since then, there is still much to do to achieve equality for all. It may now be legal to have same-sex relationships or be transgender, but people of the LGBT+ community still live in fear of persecution. Hate crime is on the rise, and social stigma still surrounds LGBT+ people. There is no backing in law for non-binary people, as there is for binary transgender people. 

As healthcare professionals in the public eye, and as employers and colleagues, we can do a lot to support equality. Making your practice an inclusive space for patients and staff is simple, and could make a world of difference to individuals who often feel marginalised and excluded. Jo Waters discusses this and more regarding LGBT+ eye health. If we can provide a safe and positive space for LGBT+ people in optical practices, hospitals, or wherever you may work, the world is one step closer to being welcoming of all human beings equally. 

Let us hope that from this difficult time we can emerge as a stronger, more advanced society.


Kieran RG Loft MSc BSc (Hons) MCOptom DipTp (IP)


Related further reading

We are pleased to announce that each nation's health system has confirmed that they support a move to the ‘Green’ phase on Tuesday 10 May 2022. From then, the College’s COVID-19 Amber phase guidance will no longer apply in all UK nations.

This outlines a COVID-19 Urgent Eyecare Service delivered from a network of optical practices, acting as urgent eye care hubs, to support the immediate and recovery phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read our response to GOC's call for evidence to review the Opticians Act (1989).