The GOC expects registrants to be honest and trustworthy, and the GOC standards for individuals includes a specific requirement against making misleading, confusing or unlawful statements within advertising. Advertising across all media in the UK is also regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
Healthcare professionals enjoy a position of trust, and members of the public have a right to expect that they will act with integrity and honesty. Most optometrists and dispensing opticians work in retail environments, so the fact that levels of public confidence in the sector remain high1 is a testament to the way in which practitioners have been able successfully to balance the clinical needs of patients against the commercial interests of the businesses they are working within.
Patients will expect that care offered by healthcare professionals is supported by evidence or established practice. If you are offering a treatment or intervention which is not supported by evidence or established practice, you should explain this clearly to patients, so they can make an informed decision on whether to proceed.
One particular area of practice which has recently been the subject of complaints around misleading or exaggerated claims is dyslexia and visual stress and practitioners working within this area should be particularly mindful about how they communicate the potential benefits of the treatments and interventions on offer.
Dyslexia and visual stress
Optometry practices and practitioners should avoid claiming or implying that they can diagnose or treat specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia.
When discussing the topic of visual stress, it is acceptable to make the following points:
- Some people experience symptoms of visual perceptual distortions and eyestrain when viewing text, and this is often described as ‘visual stress’. Symptoms of visual stress include words appearing to move around or merge together when reading, patterns or shadows appearing within a block of text and a strong aversion to striped patterns
- The latest estimates are that visual stress is present in around one in five people with dyslexia, but although they may co-exist, visual stress and dyslexia are different conditions
- Some people who suffer from visual stress find that their symptoms are alleviated by coloured filters, either in the form of coloured overlays or tinted lenses. Coloured filters are normally only considered once a sight test has been performed, and any other potential causes of visual difficulty have been addressed
Further information on the use of Coloured filters for visual discomfort can be found on our website, along with a leaflet about Tinted and coloured filters for visual discomfort which practitioners can give patients to help reinforce the advice given during an examination.
The AOP also understand that the College of Optometrists will be issuing advice around this issue.
- Public perceptions reports - General Optical Council