Information about an LOC
The Local Optical Committee (LOC) is the local organisation formed to represent NHS ophthalmic contractors and performers within its area.
There are 81 LOCs in England, 211 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), over 130 Health & Wellbeing Boards (HWBs) and 27 NHS England Area Teams. Consequently there will usually be more than one LOC relating to the same NHS England Area Team, whereas each LOC will cover at least one CCG and HWB.
The LOC is an independent and representative group with statutory rights.
The LOC is recognised and specifically referred to in NHS legislation - however it is not created by statute and is therefore not a statutory body.
The LOC is established and draws its authority from Section 44 of the National Health Service Act 1977 as amended by the Health & Social Care Act 2012Part 6 of Schedule 4.
Under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, Schedule 4, NHS England assumed the statutory responsibility to formally recognise LOCs. The NHS England Area Teams, as the local offices of NHS England, will undertake a process to formally recognise the LOCs to which they relate.
This recognition by NHS England gives certain rights and responsibilities to LOCs. There are also similar local representative committees for doctors (Local Medical Committees), dentists (Local Dental Committees) and pharmacists (Local Pharmaceutical Committees).
The LOC has the right to collect a statutory levy from contractors to finance the committee's work, the level of which is to be agreed at its AGM or by agreement with local contractors.
What are the functions of a LOC?
The specific functions of LOCs are not defined under legislation, but as the Committee representing contractors and performers within a defined area, LOCs have a general function in respect of all aspects of NHS primary care that relate to, or are relevant to, community optical and ophthalmic practitioners.
There are specific issues on which LOCs must be consulted as they concern contractors i.e. the CCG, NHS England Area Team or Local Eye Health Network (LEHN) would be expected to consult interested parties and the LOC would expect to be included. An example of this would be a proposal to create a community eye care service or a clinical governance matter. An effective LOC works locally with CCGs and HWBs to influence policies and decisions and, with other healthcare professionals, to help plan healthcare services. They also discuss and negotiate community eye care services, including new roles and additional local funding for the contractors and performers they represent.
More general role of the LOC
LOCs provide advice for ophthalmic contractors and performers on a wide range of issues relating to NHS Ophthalmic Services.
In addition to statutory rights and responsibilities, LOCs have the more general role of promoting community eye care services to commissioners and public health organisations, e.g. CCGs and HWBs, and others within their area.
General issues may include: local implementation of any future new contracts for primary eye care services - such as negotiating the provision of community eye care services; establishing good relationships at a local level with CCGs and other stakeholder organisations; developing roles and services for optometrists and dispensing opticians to provide locally; ensuring there is awareness about local optometrists/opticians and their services; liaising with CCGs on specific problem areas; engaging in dialogue about CCG & NHS England Area Team plans to identify issues relevant to contractors and performers.
A LOC is not a statutory body therefore it cannot hold a contract to provide services. A LOC may decide to form a single provider company to bid for and deliver community eye care services on behalf of local practices. LOCSU has registered companies limited by guarantee for all LOCs in England at Companies House and can advise on how to set up and run a single provider company.
LOCs should liaise closely with LMCs, LDCs and LPCs on matters that are common to all of the professions. LOCs should endeavour to work with GPs and other local clinicians on commissioning local services through CCGs. A good way of maintaining contact is to develop close relationships with LPCs, LDCs and LMCs.
LOCs should work with HWBs to ensure that eye health is included in the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) of the area. This will ensure that the CCGs develop eye health strategies and thus encourage the planning and the setting up of local eye care services to cater for local health care needs.