Putting the patient first and foremost
Optometrist and practice owner of Hammond & Parker Opticians, Dipesh Chhatralia, discusses his journey into business ownership and treating the patient the way he would like to be treated
I have worn glasses since the age of 12, so I have grown up going to the optometrist.
I got my first job in optics as an optical assistant at the age of 17. It gave me an insight into the profession before I made my university choice and helped me decide to pursue a career in optics.
When I was looking for a pre-reg placement, it was really important to me to have a clinical placement where I could develop my skills.
I did not want to just spend the year solely focused on passing the final professional assessments. I was lucky to get a hospital placement at the Oxford Eye Hospital – it was one of the best things that happened to me early on in my career. I was exposed to so many different areas of optometry, including specialist contact lens fittings, low vision and paediatric eye care, as well as ophthalmology clinics.
I had always wanted my own practice…However, I wanted to develop my clinical skills and gain experience first so that I would have good grounding to building a practice that delivered outstanding clinical care
After completing my pre-reg year, I applied to do medicine and had an offer to go to Bristol.
However, I deferred it for a year and in the end, after much thought, declined the offer. I decided to continue with optometry as I could see that there were lots of areas of the profession that I would enjoy, especially working with children, specialist contact lenses and running my own business.
After qualifying I split my time between Oxford Eye Hospital and primary care community practice.
It was great to get an insight of how a practice is run. I had worked in a variety of practices, from those with very basic equipment that had not invested in new equipment in decades, to practices with the latest technology. This experience made it apparent what I would do if I owned my practice in order to deliver the best standards of care I could.
I had always wanted my own practice from quite early on in my career.
However, I wanted to develop my clinical skills and gain experience first so that I would have a good foundation to build a practice that delivered outstanding clinical care. I met Sachin Patel, my business partner and fellow optometrist, in my pre-reg year when we were both doing evening clinics at the Institute of Optometry. We clicked because we were like-minded and would discuss owning a practice together in order to share the huge responsibility that this comes with.
In 2019 the Hammond & Parker team won the AOP Awards Optical Team of the Year accolade.
We didn’t expect to win and were so surprised when we were announced winners. The whole team was so happy and excited. It was a wonderful sense of achievement for the whole team.
Throughout the customer journey at Parker & Hammond we want our interaction with our patients to be as natural as possible and really deliver the service that they want in a friendly, professional manner.
We treat our patients in the same way we would like to be treated if we were on the other side
We listen to why they have come to see us and address their problems. When appropriate, we offer our patients vision solutions that enhance their daily lives and discuss any specific visual requirements they may have. We ensure there is good communication when patients are handed over from one member of staff to another and service is centred around the patient’s needs. It works well because we treat our patients in the same way we would like to be treated if we were on the other side.
Having a team of staff that share our vision to be the best is first and foremost when it comes to meeting and exceeding patient expectations.
We invest in staff training to ensure that we all continue to develop and move forward. We work to be better tomorrow than we are today in order to raise the bar every day. At Parker & Hammond we have an ethos of putting the needs of the patients first and ensuring we deliver outstanding clinical care to all our patients. We invest in technologies that we feel will make a positive difference to the care that we can deliver and always try and remain at the forefront of new developments. We also offer a range of services outside of standard eye examinations, which helps to differentiate our practice.
In terms of next steps, having been named the AOP Awards 2020 Contact Lens Practitioner of the Year, I want to continue to develop the practice’s contact lens business.
In the near future I also want to further my knowledge by embarking on independent prescribing.
- As told to Emily McCormick.