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Which? finds "failing Opticians"

“WHICH” finds some Opticians are failing

August 2011

In a recent August publication WHICH? consumer magazine in an undercover report finds a third of opticians are failing to provide thorough examinations and accurate prescriptions to their customers.

WHICH? sent six researchers, two with complex eye problems, to 40 optometrists from large and small chains as well as some small independents and a panel of 3 experts rated their treatment as poor or very poor.

The results were mixed with all categories large medium and small businesses receiving a range of good to poor comments. Rayner Opticians was the only one visit to receive an “excellent” review.
Around 12% of visits by researchers felt under some pressure to purchase new spectacles which they considered unwarranted.

Watery and Dry Eye conditions WHICH? said were particularly poorly dealt with one optician suggesting it was an age thing and another saying nothing could be done, which WHICH? contends is not true.
The journal asks the question, 'Where does the responsibility for ensuring that consumers get a good service, no matter what branch they go into, lie?

They contend that 'the regulator, the General Optical Council, doesn't have the power to inspect, so it's up to companies to regulate themselves or for consumers to complain and arguably, local primary care trusts should also monitor optical services as they commission them, but one has to wonder how much of a priority that will be in cash-strapped times.'

WHICH? Intends to contact the companies to ask them about how they ensure quality and, what action they plan to take as a result of Which?'s investigation.

The College of Optometrists responds:

"All optometrists are highly trained, postgraduate professionals who have to adhere to the clear guidelines for professional conduct that are in place. All practising optometrists are required by law to keep their skills and knowledge up to date to allow them to continue to practise. Optometrists have a statutory duty to carry out whatever tests the optometrist feels are necessary to detect signs of injury, disease or abnormality and, like all clinicians, must rely on their own professional judgement, taking each patient on a case-by-case basis.  For this reason, there cannot be a “one size fits all” approach to the eye examination.  
We are surprised with the findings of this report, but the issues raised by Which? must be viewed in context:  Of some 20 million+ eye tests carried out in the last year, only a small proportion were the subject of complaint to the sector’s regulator, the General Optical Council (0.0007%).  The Which? report also highlights that 92% of members thought their optician was thorough on their last visit.  The whole sector is committed to high standards and expects all optometrists to keep their knowledge and skills up to date so they can give the best possible care to their patients."

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