Party Conferences 


Each year, the Optical Confederation has a presence at the main party political conferences in England, meeting, and building relationships with MPs, Peers, Councillors and other key policy makers and ensuring that eye health is on the agenda.  

The Public Affairs Team also attend lots of fringe events arranged by other organisations, to ask questions and hear about wider issues in the health and social care sector. 

Below is a summary of the activity we have undertaken at previous conferences.



This year, we held fringe events at the Labour Conference, which took place between Sunday 25th – Wednesday 28th September, and the Conservative Conference, which took place between Sunday 2nd October and Wednesday 5th October. Our event at both conferences was a panel discussion entitled, Hospitals under pressure the community solution? The events were delivered in partnership with the Local Government Association (LGA), NHS Confederation and the Health Foundation.

At the Labour Conference, our event was chaired by Anita Charlesworth [pictured here], Director of Research and Economics at the Health Foundation, and our speakers were Katrina Venerus [pictured here], Managing Director of the Local Optical Committee Support Unit, Cllr Jonathan McShane [pictured here], Member of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Shadow Health Minister and Labour’s Health Spokesperson in the Lords [pictured here] and Phil McCarvil, Deputy Director of Policy at the NHS Confederation [pictured here].

A group photo of the panel can be found here.

At the Conservative Conference, our event was Chaired by Katrina Venerus, who also made the case for the delivery of more eye care in community optical practice, as well as the role practices can play in delivering wider public health services, and our panel again included the NHS Confederation’s Phil McCarvil, as well as Tim Gardner, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation [pictured here] and Cllr Colin Noble, Leader of Suffolk Council and LGA representative [pictured here].

A group photo of the panel can be found here. All photographs at the Conservative conference were taken by Joel Goodman. 

At both events, we gave attendees copies of Improving eye health through community optical practice, our joint guide with the Local Government Association, which promotes to councillors the greater role community optometrists and opticians can play in delivering more eye care in the community, as well as delivering general public health interventions and messages.



[The photo includes Cllr Jonathan McShane, LGA and Katrina Venerus, LOCSU]


In 2015, we had an exhibition stand, shared with Pharmacy Voice and the National Community Hearing Association at the Labour and Conservative Conferences. Here, we delivered the message that community health providers can do more to alleviate pressure on other parts of the NHS.

At the Labour conference, which took place between Sunday 27th - Wednesday 30th September, we met with over 30 MPs, including the then Shadow Health Secretary, Heidi Alexander [pictured here], and the Minister, at the time, with responsibility primary care including  ophthalmic services, Barbara Keeley [pictured here].

At the Conservative Conference, which took place from Sunday 4th October – Wednesday 7th October, just under 30 MPs visited our stand. This included the then Minster for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt MP [pictured here], whose remit in this role included ophthalmic services.

We also had visits from Sir David Amess – MP for Southend West [pictured here with the Optical Confederation's Sophie Pavlovic] and Oliver Colvile – MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, both of whom had previously visited optical practices in their constituencies, and have been great supporters of our work.

Across both conferences, the Optical Confederation's public affairs team attended over 15 health-related fringe events, hearing from think tanks, local politicians and Parliamentarians.


In 2014, we had an exhibition stand with Pharmacy Voice, the British Dental Association and the National Community Hearing Association at both the Labour and Conservative conferences.

At the Labour Party Conference, which ran from Sunday 21st to Wednesday 24th September, we had official visits to our stand from a number of Shadow Cabinet Ministers. This included Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham [Pictured in the centre, with the Optical Confederation’s Jenny Gowen to his right], Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, Liz Kendall [Pictured here with Jenny Gowen] and Andrew Gywnne, Shadow Health Minister with shared responsibility for primary care [Pictured here with the Optical Confederation’s Ben Cook on the far right].

At the Conservative Party Conference, which ran from Sunday – Wednesday October, we met with Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West, Andrew Brigden, MP for North West Leicestershire, Andrew Turner, MP for the Isle of Wight and Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby. We also had visits from Secretary of Statefor Health, Jeremy Hunt [pictured here] and Nicky Morgan, secretary of State for Education [pictured here]. 

At both conferences, we presented delegates with a copy of We are primary care - a joint report between all four organisations, expanding on our joint call-to-action: use our professions to the full extent of their abilities. A copy of the report can be found here: 


In 2013, we held fringe events at the Labour and Conservative Conferences. The events, both entitled Does The Key To Your Health Care Lie In The Community?, were delivered in partnership with Pharmacy Voice and the National Community Hearing Association. 

At the Conservative Conference, Sir Anthony Garrett spoke on behalf of the Optical Confederation in detail of the greater role community optometry could play to deliver more eye care in the community, while also explaining their integral presence on the high street. 

At the Conservative conference, we also met with Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health [pictured here with ABDO's Sir Anthony Garrett].

At the Labour party conference, we also met with Jamie Reed, at the time Shadow Minister for Primary Care, Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham and Catherine Stihler, MEP for Scotland. 


In 2012, we had an exhibition stand along along with other organisations as part of Health Hotel. We also held fringe events under this partnership.

Our fringe events featured speakers from the Optical Confederation, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the British Society of Gastroenterology. 

We received visits to our stand from Julie Hilling, MP for Bolton West [pictured here] and Diana Johnson, MP for Hull North [pictured here] at the Labour party conference.

At the Conservative conference, we were very fortunate to be visited by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and have the opportunity to talk to him about the important role opticians and optometrists play in preventing avoidable sight loss. 

[David Cameron is pictured above with LOCSU's Managing Director, Katrina Venerus]