Global contact lens community gathers in Manchester

More than 1,200 members of the global contact lens community gathered in the metropolis of Manchester, UK, last week to hear how they could be inspired in research, in practice and in business.


A total of 1,242 delegates and exhibition visitors from more than 40 countries attended the 37th British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) Clinical Conference and Exhibition, held at Manchester Central from Thursday 6 to Sunday 9 June. Attendance figures were slightly up on the 2012 event, which drew 1,203 delegates and visitors.

Contact lens professionals, academics, researchers, students and industry partners enjoyed four packed days of education, business, networking and socialising. More than 1,500 people came through the doors of Manchester Central during the four-day event, including delegates, exhibition visitors, members of the press, and industry representatives.

The Association welcomed 1,074 registered delegates in addition to 168 visitors who came just for the three-day exhibition, supported by 55 companies. It was the BCLA’s largest ever exhibition with the highest ever number of visitors.

DelegatesThe largest contingent of delegates came from the UK (471) with the largest overseas contingents coming from the USA (72) – followed by Sweden (45), Germany (40) and France (34) and Italy (34).

BCLA Student Rep and second-year optometry student at City University, Shivani Madhavji, said: “Visiting all the exhibitors was really interesting as I saw how advanced technology has become. The pre-reg talk I attended was particularly beneficial along with the RGP workshop, as it gave us hands-on experience with correct fitting and assessment. The mocktail stand labelling drinks after contact lens definitions was also great fun!”

Displayed around the exhibition hall were 80 entries in this year’s poster competition, with prizes donated by Elsevier. The overall winners were Maria Navascues-Cornago, Carole Maldonado-Codina and Philip Morgan for ‘Sensitivity of the marginal and tarsal conjunctiva in non-contact lens wearers’.

Mohammed Abid, a second-year optometry student at Cardiff University, who attended on the Saturday said: “I enjoyed the whole day and thought the RGP workshop was very informative and enjoyable. I also liked how the posters were laid out around the exhibition, and found them very useful.”

Brien Holden 2The winner of the 2013 photographic competition was Fabrizio Zeri, for his entry ‘Hyperferritinemia cataract’, with a special mention for Michelle Snowball’s ‘Meibomian gland dropout’. Fabrizio was presented with a digital camera by Immediate Past President, Dr Catharine Chisholm, courtesy of competition sponsor Nikon Optical.

There were social media fun and games during the exhibition with full delegate, Andreas Muhs from Germany, winning an iPad Mini in the BCLA’s Eye Spy game. A bottle of champagne was given away each day to the delegate whose Facebook photo of them holding a BCLA branded themos cup received the most ‘likes’.

For 2013, the Association welcomed around 100 first-time sponsored delegates to enjoy a complimentary weekend package thanks to the generosity of all exhibitors.

Sponsored delegate, optometrist Kathy Gabbatiss from Oxford, had not been to the BCLA Clinical Conference for more than 20 years. She said: “It was definitely worth attending and meeting the new generation entering contact lens practice. It was interesting that many traditional ideas are still around and holding their value, but also to see all the new innovations. I’m really grateful to the BCLA and exhibitors for providing me with the chance to come for free. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back next year.”

At Johnson & Johnson Vision Care’s Patron’s event on the Friday evening, guests enjoyed a talk by inspirational speaker and communications expert, Chris Cummins, focusing on communication with teens and how to get it right. Chris got guests involved by taking part in an interactive eye movement game, designed to help practitioners insightfully interact with patients.

During a special reception prior to the ‘Year of the Contact Lens Chinese Banquet’ themed Gala Dinner outgoing BCLA President, Dr Catharine Chisholm, welcomed new BCLA members who had joined the Association since June 2012.

Registration 2More than 700 guests attended this year’s Gala Dinner and awards. Announced during the evening were 21 new BCLA Fellowships, a mark of esteem in the field of contact lenses, which allows recipients to use the letters FBCLA after their names. Chris Kerr, who has retired as BCLA Conference Scientific Programme Consultant, was presented with a BCLA Honorary Life Membership.

More than 200 delegates attended the inaugural BCLA Business Day on Sunday 9 June. Themed ‘Understanding the business of contact lenses’, topics included the customer journey and maximising online opportunities. Delegates were give plenty of practical take-home tips, including how to use Google Places to promote the practice website, and the most effective marketing and social media strategies.

Attendee Helen Pinney of Brownbills Optometrists, Ashford, Kent, said: “We are already ranked number one on Google when searching for ‘optician + Ashford + Kent’. But I’m going to go back and make sure we’re using Google Places to maximise our online presence. You can’t afford to be complacent about practice marketing in today’s climate and the Business Day reminded us of that.”

New for 2013 were peer review and peer discussion. Delegates got involved in these new sessions, gaining contact lens and therapeutics CET points. Neil Cox, who attended peer discussion of several cases on the Sunday of the conference, said: “This was a really great addition to the programme, and the facilitation and general running of the sessions were extremely good. I hope it will be repeated.”

Speaking at the conference closing ceremony as he begins his year in office, new BCLA President, Andy Yorke, said: “As you know, the BCLA is embarking on an exciting new journey – all designed to support our members and conference delegates in clinical practice, research and in business.

“Our new look logo, new website and new year-round events will help us to move forwards and help our members – and the contact lens profession in general – to grow and develop. Make sure you are part of this journey as a BCLA member.

Elaine Lucas workshopAndy added: “On behalf of the BCLA Council, I would like to thank Immediate Past President, Dr Catharine Chisholm, for her commitment and tireless dedication to the BCLA over the past year. I look forward to continuing to work with Catharine and benefit from her expertise over the next year, along with all Council members.”

Andy also thanked this year’s sponsors: Patron sponsors, Alcon, CooperVision and Johnson & Johnson Vision Care; Platinum sponsor, Bausch + Lomb; and Gold sponsors, David Thomas Contact Lens/Menicon, Sauflon and Topcon.

The 38th BCLA Clinical Conference and Exhibition will take place at the ICC Birmingham, UK, from 6-9 June 2014. For the first time, the Clinical Conference will run from Friday to Monday, with the Exhibition on the Saturday to Monday, to better accommodate busy High Street practitioners. The theme will be announced in the autumn, along with further details about the new programme.

2014 keynote speakers:

  • BCLA Medal Lecture: Dr Philip Morgan (UK)
  • Irving Fatt Memorial Lecture: Heiko Pult (Germany)
  • Professor Lyndon Jones (UK/Canada)
  • Dr Motozumi Itoi (Hong Kong)

For more information about BCLA events and how to join the Association, visit, email or call 0207 580 6661.

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