Our latest snapshot undercover investigation found that two out of five of the opticians we visited weren’t up to scratch. The opticians we investigated fell down on key areas such as doing the right eye testing and issuing an accurate prescription (within acceptable limits).
As a patient, it’s hard to judge the quality of the clinical part of the consultation. It’s far easier to rate tangible things such as whether your glasses improve your vision.
In our mystery-shop, one researcher had clearly visible age-related deposits called drusen in their eyes. Our experts said an optometrist should have noticed this and told the patient. They could have potentially given them advice regarding diet, UV protection and to stop smoking.
Shockingly, this researcher was only warned about it during one of the five appointments they attended, and this was at a small regional chain. Patients with drusen are at higher risk of developing macular degeneration, a sight-threatening condition, so it’s important to be given advice on how to stop them worsening – how could a patient possibly know about this omission?
Buying glasses online
But is the answer to ditch the high street and go online to buy your glasses? Granted you’ll be looking at cheaper glasses, but you still need your eyes testing, and you’re splitting this from the dispensing of glasses which can make it much harder to sort out subsequent problems (were they due to the testing or the dispensing?).
When we investigated buying online glasses in 2012 we also found that some should come with a serious health warning. Our experts failed 15 out of 36 pairs, with five pairs of varifocals deemed ‘very dangerous’ for the wearer.
Getting more from your optician
Part of the answer may be in us learning more about what we should expect with an eye test so we can ask our optician the right questions.
For example, get to know the different tests and what they’re for: ask when you don’t think you’ve had one of them, or want to understand the results. Tell the optometrist your eye history, even if they don’t ask or if you’ve already explained it to the assistant doing your initial tests or written it on a form.
We know there are great opticians out there – we’ve seen them and you’ve told us about them – but our snapshot investigation also gives us ground for real concern.
Do you have a preferred opticians? Have you bought glasses online before?