Home is where the sight chart is

As the pandemic ebbs and flows, domiciliary eye care has never been more important

family in window

For many elderly and vulnerable people across the UK, the world became smaller during the pandemic.

Measures to restrict the spread of COVID-19 meant that those shielding spent many months with their horizons limited to the four walls of their home.

Even when restrictions eased after the development of effective vaccines, some people were hesitant to venture out onto the High Street again.

The discovery that eye care can be offered in the comfort of a patient’s own home has been a profound relief for many during the pandemic.

And it is a service that is increasingly important – with the Office for National Statistics estimating that one in four UK residents will be 65 or older by 2066.

Domiciliary optometrist and AOP Councillor, Paul Chapman-Hatchett, shared that the ‘Grandmother test’ formed the foundation of his business when he established Care Opticians 25 years ago.

“It works around the principle that if you carry out a sight test or dispense glasses, you look at the patient and imagine they are your grandmother or grandfather,” he shared.

“If you are satisfied with the job you have done, then walk away. If you are not, then do something about it,” Chapman-Hatchett advised.

Optometrist Malvi Patel recently began working for SeeAbility within the Special Schools Eye Care Service – a domiciliary service contracted by NHS England that aims to offer 120,000 children eye care in around 1000 special schools by 2023.

Patel shared with OT that being involved in the programme has reignited her passion for optometry.

“I feel privileged to be working with these children,” she shared.

Patel works alongside dispensing optician, Mitchel Reuben, who is followed by a chorus of children asking him to perform magic tricks when he walks down school corridors.

The magic tricks are one of the ways that Reuben engages with young patients and puts them at ease.

“To be honest, I don’t really have bad days at work,” Reuben shared.

The domiciliary sector is growing to meet demand, with OutsideClinic announcing a recruitment drive in June to employ 50 optometrists.

The company currently performs around 100,000 sight and hearing tests in patients’ homes each year.

For many domiciliary optometrists, the open road is their office. As part of efforts to keep those roads safe and promote the value of eye care, the AOP launched its Don’t swerve a sight test campaign this week.

The campaign encourages drivers to have regular sight tests, alongside other tips for safe winter driving.

AOP members who are keen to get involved can download a campaign pack, which includes website banners, a patient leaflet and an animated video, as well as guidance on how to make the most of campaign materials.