Our investigation into opticians found that some are failing to provide proper eye tests, with those customers who have the most serious eye conditions getting the worst service. How would you rate your optician?
I had a horrible experience earlier this year: I had an episode of acute glaucoma – unusual for someone in their 40s – and had to have laser surgery on my eyes.
Luckily my optometrist (optician) knew her stuff and referred me to the hospital, and I suffered no lasting problems. But our latest investigation into opticians makes me wonder if my experience was even luckier than I thought.
Opticians fail the Which? eye test
We sent researchers with a range of eye conditions to 40 optometrists from large and small chains, as well as some independents, and found that just under a third weren’t up to scratch. Moreover, only one visit was rated excellent by our experts.
Perhaps more worryingly it was the researchers with the most complicated eye problems – arguably those who most needed the skill of a tip-top professional – who got the worst service. Twelve out of 40 prescriptions were rated “poor” and in five cases staff even struggled to get an accurate result from the machine that measures the prescription of your current glasses.
We also surveyed our members and found that 40% thought the final cost of their optician appointment was more than they expected, and 18% didn’t consider the glasses or lenses they bought to be good value.
Your health or your wallet?
The above survey makes me think about the relationship between the optician as a provider of a health service (one that’s vital to keep your eyes fundamentally in check) and the optician as retailer (the guy has to sell you your glasses). In order to trust our optician, we have to be sure that he or she is doing both of these jobs well – diagnosing a potential eye condition, and selling us a product that’s right for us.
Our research throws some doubt on both. Our researchers visited a relatively small number of opticians, but our expert panel that rated those visits (from hidden recordings) saw some very poor practice.
Thankfully, we saw good practice too, but perhaps we need to question what opticians are really there for?