The legal stuff

Understanding sale and supply rules

Woman puts contact lens in

Contact lenses are a great way of correcting vision. Some patients use them as their main form of correction, while others just like having the option of wearing contacts for socialising or sports. It is important to remember that contact lenses are medical devices that have the potential to cause harm if not properly fitted and supplied, so it is vital to be aware of the regulations around their sale and supply.

Contact lens fitting

Before a patient can be fitted with contact lenses, they must have a valid spectacle prescription, which is less than two years’ old. This ensures the patient has an up-to-date prescription to use as a starting point for fitting contact lenses and also confirms the patient has had a recent general eye health check.

Contact lenses can only be fitted by a registered medical practitioner, optometrist or contact lens optician. The practitioner will discuss the different types of contact lenses available, examine the front of the eyes in detail and assess whether contact lenses meet the patient’s needs. If the patient is suitable for contact lenses, they will be shown how to apply, remove and look after their lenses before being given trial lenses to take away and the patient will normally be asked to attend a follow-up appointment wearing their trial lenses.

Contact lenses can only be fitted by a registered medical practitioner, optometrist or contact lens optician


Contact lens supply

Once the fitting is complete, the patient will receive a ‘contact lens specification,’ which contains details of the contact lenses prescribed, and an expiry date. Contact lenses can only be supplied if the patient has a valid contact lens specification, and you must not give patients their full supply if this will take them over their expiry date. Although patients must have an up-to-date spectacle prescription when they have their fitting appointment, this isn’t necessary if you are simply supplying contact lenses; they simply need to have a valid contact lens specification.

Although most contact lenses can be supplied under the general direction of a registered practitioner, if the patient is under the age of 16 years, or known to be sight-impaired, you can only supply contact lenses under the supervision of a registered practitioner, which means they must be on the premises and in a position to intervene if necessary.

Image credit: CooperVision