01 I spent my first few years as a qualified optometrist working within the hospital setting, which led me down a pathway into research where I was consulting in clinical research. It was a desire to be productive with my time at ‘home’ that led me to open my own practice.
When it came to furthering my career, I knew that I would rather work for myself – opting to open up my own independent practice would allow me to set my own goals, choose my own stock and create a patient journey that I was comfortable with. I knew that doing it my way would allow me to remain satisfied in my career.
I opened The Eye Establishment in Kensington, London in August this year after around two years of planning. I grew up around the area so I know it quite well. It is an affluent borough, but there are also a large number of neighbourhoods. Based in the premises where we are on a cross-junction, we can attract a very varied patient base from four distinct postcodes. This provides the practice with an NHS pool that I knew I wanted to cater for when setting up the practice.
"We have consciously chosen to stock frames that are not readily available in the UK...When it came to selecting stock, we really concentrated on quality"
02 When designing the practice, we were looking to create something a little different to your everyday practice – we wanted to create an environment where people would feel relaxed and somewhere they could spend time in browsing.
The practice is open and airy, with the two feature displays in the middle for a luxe feel that ticks all of the boxes. It’s almost like a jewellery store as opposed to an optician. We also have an espresso bar serving some locally roasted beans, which the locals seem to love, even if they are not interested in buying some glasses.
We meticulously designed the window area too. We wanted one large single window that stood out and was clear so that it lets people walking down the street, or crossing at the junction, know that we are here.
03 The frames that we stock are an important part of the type of practice that we aimed to create.
We have consciously chosen to stock frames that are not readily available in the UK – there is no Luxottica here.
When it came to selecting stock, we really concentrated on quality. Yes, being a boutique-styled practice, customers may pay a little more, but I know that what I’m selling is unbelievably good and well-made.
I was also inspired by my time in Japan. I have travelled there a lot over the last few years and fell in love with the opticians there and the fresh, unique feel they have. We stock a brand called Eyevan 7285, which I spotted on my travels back in 2015 and knew I had to offer it to my customers when I opened.
04 The patient journey was very important to me during the planning phase of the practice – some patients are used to 20–25-minute sight tests, but I think it can feel like a bit of a conveyer belt system. Therefore, our sight tests are 45 minutes.
I’ll admit that the ‘normal’ patient doesn’t always require this long, but we have a database of NHS patients that we inherited from the health centre a few doors down.
Coming from a hospital environment, when picking the equipment for the testing room, investing in an optical coherence tomography device was particularly important to me, especially if we embark on enhanced services. While I don’t think the tool should be used as a replacement for the slit lamp or Volk assessments, it is a great diagnostic tool.
05 This is my first community practice and as my career to date has been dominated by work within the hospital setting and research, it is baby steps at the moment.
Setting up the practice was the first step, and now it is about building our patient base, before exploring how we can take it to the next level.
The overall goal when establishing this practice was to provide the best healthcare for our patients and to marry that with some good quality eyewear.
For me as a clinician, offering enhanced eye care through community pathways and minor eye conditions services is certainly one goal. If we are able to maintain our original ethos, we could expand to another practice or two in the future – but that’s a long way off yet.
In the immediate future, if patient demand grows, there is the potential to open a second testing room downstairs. While that floor could also serve as a VIP dispensing area, or even a café; we have lots of options.