/ Health

Are opticians losing sight of our needs?

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?

Emma says:
10 April 2015

When I was 21 I was diagnosed with strabismus and told I needed squint surgery, by the doctor. They asked me if I’d ever been to an opticians as it’s usually diagnosed in children. I’ll spare your the full details of the numerous opticians appointments I had over my childhood, but the crux of it is that my school teachers and I said that I couldn’t see properly, and all the opticians said I could as my lenses were fine, but most sold me glasses anyway as they said it could help and I was willing to give it a try (more fool me). No-one referred me to a GP (I took myself there off my own back when my headaches got too severe) and what is more, since I was 12, I was sold about 1 pair of glasses a year, all of which were completely different prescriptions, some that made my eyes worse, but the hospital said that actually I didn’t need any lens correction at all – just prisms and squint surgery. Two eye operations later (and 10years) the eye doctor told me that both operations had made my squint worse, but there was nothing they could do. I have double vision only when I look up – apparently that’s not problematic, and as I’m older i now need glasses for real. Initially the hospital opticians tested me and I loved finally being able to see (except looking up of course!), but a few years on my prescriptions worse and they told me to go to highstreet opticians. Specsavers have already sold me glasses and contacts that make me feel sick, I’m nervous about anything to do with my eyes and have no trust in opticians or opthalmology consultants any more. Can anyone give me a good experience of going to high street optician with complicated eyes, and getting s good result?

alyson says:
21 September 2015

hi go to an optometry optician. it will cost £60.00 well worth it though. she will give you exercises vision therapy if needed amazing things she can do also look at fixing my gaze amazon

Jack Diamond says:
27 April 2015

I got new glasses in 1991 during Desert Shield from the U.S. Army. Whoever that Doc was, he was a genius. “I’m going to overcorrect you and give you large lenses so you’ll look like a jazz musician.” I’m still wearing those bifocals. Over the years, the only change is my very near vision for reading, using computer and seeing objects is clear to three feet away. Thus, I wear the bifocals for all other activity such as walking and driving. Now the bad, sad part. I was advised to get an eye checkup as part of my physical exam back in the civilian world. I have since had FOUR–yes count them FOUR glasses that are NOT CORRECT. However, the optical world scam continues. I still try from time to time get my Army glasses prescription redone. The (insert your own string of expletives) optical scammers would not. They shake their phony heads. “You’ve been wearing the same glasses since 1991???!!!” No amount of convincing will convince this con man industry that it IS possible. What they want is big bucks for an eye exam every three years, do their scam test and give me new glasses.

I have squandered over $1,000 in this phony business!!

Jack Diamond says:
27 April 2015

Thanks for letting me tell it like it really is! There must be other people out there in the same Catch 22 I’m in. So, I’m glad to share.

george says:
3 May 2015

I had the Tesco free eye test at one of their major stores in Hayes, May 2015 – this is what I found.

Excellent eye test by a professional Optometrist. Test for eye diseases and eyesight included.
Very good advice and time to answer any questions
Booking was easy online or via phone.
Well trained assistants – modern and well equipped facility with privacy for test.
Prominently displayed on wall what their aims are – including NO HARD SELL/NOT SELLING UNNECESSARY ITEMS and treating customers with courtesy and patience.
good choice of frames, clearly priced from £15 for men women and children. Even Cheaper frames were perfectly acceptable. More expensive also available but not pushed.
Whole visit lasted 45 minutes including eye test (20 -25 mins) and choosing frame. Collect within a few days.
Conclusion: totally recommended – professional but high quality service. Well done Tesco.

Maria says:
7 May 2015

My employer uses Tesco for the ScreenCare scheme so I had an eye test at the Kingston, Milton Keynes branch. A prescription was issued which I took to Specsavers, because they have a better choice of frames.
Specsavers made a pair of varifocals for me. I tried them for a week but just did not get on with them. I has been advised by Specsavers that it would take time to get used to them.
However I just did not get on with the glasses. Left eye was fine, but nothing was in focus for the right eye.
Went back to Specsavers and they gave an appointment for a sight test. Had the test and Specsavers say that I have astigmatism in my right eye , and the prescription from Tesco does not include necessary correction.
It will cost £98.50 to get the lens remade to the correct prescription.
I contacted Tesco and explained the problem. Had a phone call from them yesterday and was asked for details of the prescription I got from Specsavers and was also asked what I wanted them (Tesco) to do for me. I said that I wanted to be reimbursed for the cost of getting the correct lens.
Another phone call from Tesco today and they say that Specsavers should cover the cost.
They have not denied that they made a mistake, but say that if for example someone gets a prescription from them and then goes elsewhere and buys a £300 pair of glasses, Tesco should not be responsible for any costs incurred in correcting those glasses because the customer could have bought £50 glasses from from them ! They say this is line with the General Optical Council guidelines. This is unbelievable!

This is actually correct on the part of Tesco and Specsavers are doing things wrong.

As of the beginning of the year, the guidelines for dispensing spectacles now say that the responsibility for providing correct glasses lies entirely at the hands of those actually selling the glasses to you. If they choose to accept an outside prescription, they do so at their own risk, so they should be correcting the lenses for you and claiming back their costs from Tesco directly if they feel there was a mistake, not requiring you to get involved at all.

See: http://www.optometry.co.uk/news-and-features/?article=6828

Most good opticians practices will now offer a free check of an outside prescription if you bring it in – if they don’t then you can end up stuck in this awkward legal limbo.

Stockport lady says:
11 May 2015

I’m not happy with my optician, I find him rude and rushes through the test, he also finished off your sentences! Instead off letting you speak! Ive also seen him being quite rude to his staff infront of customers.
He is more interested in selling designer frames which are way to much money, and they seem to break so easy. The lenses also seem to get dirty so easy!
I would rather go to the one down the road which is where I’ll be going from now on! Shame I liked it there before this new guy took over.

Des says:
11 May 2015

Please is there anyone out there that knows of an optician who tests eyes in daylight and not in an awful black room, I cannot stand the lights they use and it gives me a false eye test, I never read in a black room with glaring lights so why test my eyes in one?? Yes I can see perfectly alright driving at night.
Please if anyone can help me I would be grateful

roger smith says:
20 May 2015

des you can prefer to homeheathclinic.co.uk cuz i too had such experience

Mrs. Noreen. christelow says:
9 June 2015

I went to do dolland and atichans now with boots opticians, the glasses factory, specsavers none of these got my glasses and eyesight test right. Was also with vision express had same problems. Now I have been to Buckingham and hitchisons done my eyesight right got my glasses frame wrong went to order them at r.l gardeners in northeast having to take them back tomorrow as done lense ‘ wrong. They are saying the last opticians done my eye test wrong this is not so. Can I get the optician who ordered them to put them right as it’s like 2 years ago had to wait 10 weeks and suffer. As for the optical council with complaint about the glasses factory they did not help anyone able to give me advice? .

Hi Noreen, thanks for your post and I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had some problems with an optician. Have you had a read through our consumer right’s guide about optician complaints? If not, you’re more than welcome to visit it here:


I hope you’re able to get the matter resolved 🙂

Ann says:
27 June 2015

Hi, my teenage son has quit strong lenes, he notices the slitest change in his and also has a focas piont which out of alinment distorts his vision, every time we have to have then sent back but this time the prescription was out by a fraction, it should not be noticable they said , well to my son it made all the diffrence, the new lenses made him feel like he had slight vertigo if that made sence, well try them the reseptinist said he has been checked twice and four of there staff had examined them she said, i took one look at my 13 year olds face and i said no we refuse the glasses he is not happy so were you sugest we go from here, she gave me his vouchur and said mabe you would like to try some were else, i could see my son was feeling uncomfutable so i said very well and left, i shall be back there monday alone to explain that they need to sort this out and my son reqires the lenes that he is using now the lens he wonts and is quit happy with and i will insist they retest him again and again if nesesery until they get it right as it is his right to have what he is comfatable with not what is conveniant for them, i have not left the name of this options as to be fair they have in the past given us good service if not for there optition i would be blind now as there good detection work got me prompt treatment but there will always be times when you have to make a stand and there will always be that one member of staff that lets you down, my son does not try to be dificalt but as we now when somthing is not right my son is shy and does not wont to be a bother but your not a bother i have told him your just taking good care of your eyes

Martin says:
28 June 2015

Hi Ann
It’s likely that the glasses have not been fitted properly. Especially with high prescriptions there are many variables that can compromise the quality of vision with spectacle lenses. This is one of the reasons under 16’s must be dispensed by a qualified optician. I would suggest you return ensuring you see a qualified optician for the fitting, that the lenses are checked for power and centration before subjecting your son to another, possibly unnecessary, examination.
Hope this helps.

Anne says:
7 August 2015

My mother-in-law, who is in her 90’s went to Boots in Stevenage and they persuaded her to buy glasses that cost nearly £600 (unfortunately, we left her for 10 minutes and in that time she chose and paid for the glasses and didn’t tell us how much they cost). Despite having macular degeneration and being wobbly on her feet, they also sold her unsuitable reactolite lenses which take so long to return to clear that she had had two falls as a result. They were supposed to refer her because of the deterioration, but nearly 5 months later we had a phone call asking us to go in and collect the referral letter to give to her GP!

For her next appointment we took her to Asda’s in Stevenage. Wow. what a difference. They gave her a thorough test which lasted for nearly an hour. They went on to say that because of the problem with her eyes they did not recommend she has new glasses. They sent a letter to her GP within 48 hours for a second referral.

My husband always gets his glasses from Asda’s and he has never had any problems. He knows how much he is going to pay right from the beginning. The price is inclusive of coatings etc.

Martin says:
16 August 2015

How refreshing.

Shayne says:
28 August 2015

Just got new varifocals from boots ( formerly I was with d&a) my last boots varifocals 2 years ago were fine but at this eyetest at the end of the test reading the small writing on the reading
Card ( wearing those test things they change the lens in) it was so sharp ! Brilliant !then I put my old glasses back on and read it much blurrier !I needed new lenses obviously! I was persuaded to have the protect plus on my top of the range lenses cost £450 in total I was happy with that as I need excellent vision for close work. However they didn’t seem brilliant when I picked them up and after trying them for a week they are AWFUL! I can read better with the old ones the new ones only let me see 2 words in focus where the old ones were 7 or 8 words. Also worse than that I can’t use them at all in artificial light there are 2 discs of shimmering reflection in green,pink and purple at the bottom of my vision and as I raise my eyes they get bigger and merge into a shimmering curtain along the top of my vision!Even in daylight there are 3 reflection circles in the right lens!If I squint or hold the book up at forehead level its better is it the protect plus doyou think I’ve never had it before ?my

prescription is right distance sph +3.25, cyl+3.5, axis80, prism1/2 ?, base in, near cyl +3.5prism an.Left distance sph+2.7, near cyl +3ri ?, axis an? Some of this is guessing as his writing is bad some things are just wiggles on the page! Any comments would help me

If you explain the problem to Boots, they should be able to sort out the problem for you. The sooner you report the problem the better.

Shayne says:
28 August 2015

Thanks I will go back tomorrow

Did you get thinner lenses? The colours you are seeing sound like chromatic abberations which can be common with certain types of thinner lenses (namely polycarbonate materials). If that is the case, you may be intollerant to the lens material and Boots should replace the lenses for you if you explain to the dispensing optician your problem 🙂

Shayne says:
28 August 2015

Update I’ve just got out my prescription from 2 years ago and according to the 2 GOS 2 forms for near vision its identical to the new one ( same optician!) For distance the sph Right eye has gone from 2.75 to 3.25 and Left distance sph from 2.5 to 2.75 so did I need new glasses ? Why was the vision in the test lens so much better than my old glasses yet I can read so much better in them than in my new glasses!!

Martin says:
1 September 2015

Sounds like the lenses are not in the right place in the frame. If the lenses in the test were good but not in the specs, it’s likely that the measurements for your varifocals are wrong especially since you see less words sharply. Be sure that the dispensing optician sees you this time and if they get it wrong, try somewhere else after your refund. Nothing better than recommendation and experience in my view.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Rubys Mum says:
10 October 2015

Specsavers have ripped me off consistently over the years. It all goes around NHS vouchers. I get free NHS examinations and a frame and lens voucher. I am entitled to the higher value lens voucher because my prescription is complex and rather high. I always pay the extra for better frames and coatings on the lenses etc. Every time I have received the bill, they have only credited the bill with the lower voucher and on both occassions the health board confirmed that they submitted the higher value voucher. Thus they got paid twice for part of the lens prescription! This happened to me TWICE!
My daughter is named on a Child tax credit award and I have an NHS exemption certificate, the paper part which stipulates the certificate is issued only in the name of the claimant but the dependants named on the award are covered by the certificate. It is stated clearly both the print letter sent with the certificate AND on the NHS BSA (Who issue the certificates)website that those named on the tax Credit Award are also covered on the certificate. Although she is in -non higher-further education and I still get tax credits for her on my award, because she is 19. Specsavers refuse to issue the NHS voucher she is entitled to. Despite showing them all the evidence, they claimed that they had phoned the NHS BSA and were told that they had confirmed that she is not entitled to Free NHS glasses. I called the NHS BSA and they have no record of any enquiry from Specsavers regarding our families certificate. In fact they confirmed that the certificate is valid for my daughter, so the optometrist was lying about this too, but why?
They then tried to sell her a contact lens package that she could clearly not afford as she was trying to use her access to NHS healthcare to get glasses (her prescription is also complex). It wouldn’t have been that disgusting taking advantage of her desperation if it weren’t for the fact that she is learning disabled as well.
They told her I would be fined if they used the certificate to issue an NHS voucher for and I could be in trouble for Fraud. A load of rubbish as confirmed by the NHS BSA. This caused her even more distress as it is difficult for a person with learning difficulties to process this. This allegation was made publicly and in the presence of her accompanying carer, as well as at least one other member of the public known to us.
DO NOT go to Specsavers if you have a disabled young adult, that you still claim child tax credit for. DO NOT go to Specsavers if youre entitled to a higher level NHS voucher – they’ll shaft you over and charge you for something they already get paid for.

Fiona says:
4 November 2015

I recently went to boots opticians in Brownhills. I thought the eye test was thorough. However, choosing the frames was an experience! The staff were impatient and too eager to get money out of me. I paid cash for the glasses and after a week they arrived. They was so tight on my head i went back to get them adjusted. As the tension caused headaches. After returning home, the vision was awfull. Causing my eyes to strain and yet again headaches. I rang boots, they said i have to give it at leadst 4 weeks. I suffered terrible headaches and gave up!. These glasses were supposed to improvey sight. I had birthday money, so i ‘treated’ myself. I am going back today to see if i can get a refund.

Jan G says:
17 November 2015

I recently went to value specs in Glasgow for an eye infection, the receptionist at my doctors told me to go there to make sure it wasn’t serious. I went along then discovered I was getting a full eye test… Great an eye test when I’ve got conjunctivitis and could hardly see! But I still managed to read right down to the bottom line on eye chart and the optician told me I had better than most people’s vision and didn’t need glasses but he said part of the test he would do on the Monday when my sight cleared… I returned in the Monday completed the test and again told my eye sight was perfect although the sight in my left eye was not as good as my right. By the end of the test I was told I needed glasses for distance….. I already had glasses from tesco opt which I got last year lovely lipsy glasses hardly ever worn them so I picked a cheap frame £20 and thought it would be the same strength…. Noooo I can’t even focus with these! I couldn’t see a parked cars license plate with these… I could without them and with my lipsy glasses crystal clear vision… £20 down the drain because they are useless for distance but they do make the TV MASSIVE!!
Tees opticians did a great job I wouldn’t recommend value specs in Springburn and had I known they were gonna do a full eye test I woulda went to tesco!

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Presumably Duncan the doc is simply referring you to a specialist, as they would if you had a problem with your teeth. Opticians these days have very sophisticated equipment that can detect upcoming problems. Sight is so valuable that to penny-pinch on a proper check would be foolish.

The system does work in reverse. An optician can suspect possible medical conditions such as diabetes and refer you to a doctor.

In the last 2 weeks I had three eye tests at different opticians and the prescription are all different.

1) RIGHT Sphere +1.00. cyl balance. axis . Near +1.00. LEFT Sphere +1.50. cyl -0.50. axis 110. Near +1.00 LEFT INTER ADD +1.00 RIGHT INTER ADD +1.00
Optician said on borders of distance so ok do not need distance.

2) RIGHT Sphere +0.75 cyl . axis Near +2.00. LEFT Sphere +1.50. cyl -0.50. axis 115. Near +2.00
Did not put any readings for inter and said I would have to write to the director of the company for a copy of the prescription.
Optician said I need distance and would be illegal to drive without them.

3)RIGHT Sphere +1.00 cyl -0.25. axis 130.0. Near +2.00. LEFT Sphere +1.00. cyl -0.50. axis 105. Near +2.00
Optician said on borders of distance so ok do not need distance.
Are these three different prescription similar? Or are they completely different?

Which one shall I go for (for glasses?)

Bob says:
4 March 2016

What qualifications does the author have? Opticians are highly regulated as are most health care professionals. If the NHS collapses as it might well , you are all in for a shock. Plumbers charge 60 quid to come to your house and look at the washing machine. Hairdressers charge 200 pounds to do your hair. What do you think dentists should charge to surgically remove a tooth NHS pays 14 quid. You have a sore eye NHS pays 21 quid. Not really paid what we should be.