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Spreading best practice

First alliance meeting

The key to a first successful meeting is getting the right people together. For the UKOA, given the number of founder members, its geographical spread and the spirit of shared governance, it was important that the alliance met on neutral territory rather than becoming associated with any particular trust.

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The agenda

These suggestions are based on the UKOA experience:

  • It is important that there is evidence of executive support. Asking one of the trusts’ CEOs to make a welcome speech should be considered.
  • Ensure that the intended purpose and aims for the alliance are shared with the members. Listen to feedback and adapt accordingly – they should be shaped by the members.
  • Showcase the preparation work – in the UKOA’s case this was the literature review leading to the suggested pilots and the groundwork for a procurement workstream.
  • Show potential for efficiencies, for example cost savings, and demonstrate the potential for quality improvement that the alliance could achieve.
  • Invite the experts you have been working with to be part of the day to share the learning.

The precedent for collaboration and shared governance should be established early and this is best achieved by seeking feedback from members. The UKOA meeting spent the afternoon in groups working on various questions. This work helped with planning the next steps for the alliance and ensured all members felt engaged in shaping the future work programme. Members discussed options for work which helped to develop a framework.


It is important to focus members on active work programmes that can be delivered.  Asking members which standards they are interested in developing will ensure the workstreams will be relevant and more likely to be of interest. 

There was significant consensus from UKOA members as to the priorities and they generated many topics of interest. These broadly fitted under three key workstream headings:

  • data and costs.
  • quality standards.
  • services and staff.   

To garner interest and enthusiasm, look for:

  • quick wins.
  • what people want.
  • ways to make savings.
  • who will do the work and how.

Members volunteered at the UKOA meeting or by email afterwards.  Getting people to volunteer for particular pieces of work on the day of the meeting is a way of ensuring that these gain traction quickly.

Updating the communication plan

During pre-planning a draft communications plan should be put in place and once the alliance begins to develop this should be updated.

The form of your alliance will dictate how you decide to communicate.  For a national alliance (like the UKOA and the NOA), it will be important for members to agree how to communicate in their workgroups, how to share information, how to report progress and then how this progress can be shared between full membership meetings.  The UKOA decided on quarterly meetings. Channels can include email, Skype, conference calls, website and newsletter.

The communication plan should be updated to include this information.  It is also important that the alliance members share the learning within their own units as well as with other members.

Once the alliance is formed it will need an identity.  Suggestions for a name were collected at the inaugural ophthalmology meeting and then members voted through an online survey.

The UKOA decided to develop a website and newsletter and to use email and conference calling for workgroups to communicate.

first alliance meeting image


Key learning from the first alliance meeting

  • Have the meeting at an accessible location.
  • Share the planning but let members change and decide things.
  • Sign up workstream volunteers on the day or as soon as possible afterwards.
  • Keep stakeholders involved.
  • Don’t duplicate work but implement existing standards.
  • Give the alliance an identity as soon as possible.
  • Agree how the members will communicate.