The origins of the Association for Independent Optometry can be traced back to the formation of the NHS in 1948. At that time there were great organisational difficulties and little guidance for practitioners. It was at this time that two dedicated optometrists, Stanley Wells and Norman Archbold, founded the forerunner of the AIO, the Optical Practitioners Standing Conference (OPSC).

Their view was that optometrists (or ophthalmic opticians as we were then known) should practice professionally and ethically, and that the best way of achieving this was in independent “rooms practice” with no window display or the like.

Their idea was that the OPSC could gather like-minded practitioners together for an annual conference to share ideas and attend lectures a forerunner of today’s CET.

The deliberations of OPSC were rarely reported in detail but the strength was (and still is with AIO) that it forms a platform for discussions among colleagues in varied and congenial surroundings.

AIO Conferences

The conference has been reconvened and adjourned annually within the UK ever since.

In 2003 OPSC changed its name to the Association for Independent Optometry (Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians), more accurately to reflect the views and aspirations of its members.

Membership is open to independent Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians, both principals and those employed within the Independent sector,  who subscribe to highly ethical and professional practice. For purposes of AIO membership a franchised practice is not deemed to be Independent.

For guidance, “independent” is usually interpreted as –  An Independent Optometric or Dispensing Optical Practice, or Group Practice, being one that is under the complete ownership control of a person included in the GOC Register, with no obligatory restriction on practice activity, or contractual requirements in the running of the practice, applied by another person or corporate body. Where the Practice or Group Practice is owned by more than one person, then to be considered independent, at least 50% of the partners or director owners should be included In the GOC Register, with the same caveats that apply to single ownership.

The AIO Mission Statement

Members of The Association for Independent Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians (AIO) believe independent optometric practice is an important way of delivering a high standard of clinical care to the public. The Association will encourage the promotion and development of independent practice and support and assist Independent Practitioners in pursuit of their professional duty to act in the best interests of their patients.


The AOP is an active supporter of the AIO and is working with it to provide support to Independent Practitioners across the UK and a positive future for tomorrow’s Independent Practitioners.