High Street laser eye surgery chain Optimax has confirmed it will stop providing refractive surgery procedures in six of its clinics.
The announcement comes after reports circulated that the group was consulting over the potential closure of 10 of its 28 clinics. The affected six clinics are reported to be Chester, Croydon, Hull, Ipswich, Nottingham and Southend, with further speculation that aftercare services will wrap up within the coming months.
A spokesperson for the chain told OT: “Optimax will cease to offer laser eye surgery at six of its clinics. Aftercare appointments will continue at these clinics and we therefore do not anticipate inconvenience to our patients.”
Earlier this month, chief executive of Optical Express, David Moulsdale, announced that the rival chain would offer to provide aftercare services to any Optimax patients affected by clinic closures.
Optical Express, which has more than 120 locations in the UK, has offered affected patients a first appointment “which will cover all diagnostic testing...a meeting with an optometrist and, if necessary, an ophthalmic surgeon, which would be at our cost.”
Explaining the move, Mr Moulsdale told OT: “We’re the market leader and we feel a responsibility to these patients, albeit they were not treated by us.”
He added: “The vast majority of patients treated at Optical Express, and all other providers, are happy with their visual outcome and often go on to recommend the service to other people. So if we can do the right thing by the patient and in effect create some goodwill that leads to future referrals, then I consider that the right thing to do.”
The Optical Express chief executive told OT that, according to available market intelligence, the six affected Optimax clinics are likely to close in the coming months. “Those six clinics, I believe, are going to stay open for a few weeks to provide the initial aftercare to the patients treated in June and July, but then sometime in August those clinics are all scheduled to close,” he said.
When OT contacted Optimax on two separate occasions to verify the claims it would neither confirm nor deny that it was considering clinic closures, saying only that “no decision has been made.” The chain then also declined to comment further on the reported locations of the six clinics, as to whether services would continue beyond this month, or to what extent staff and patients would be affected by any closure.
The refractive surgery sector has seen a drop in the number of procedures, which many have linked with negative reports in the national media, including a case for which Optical Express is involved in active legal proceedings.
“Unfortunately, many people who are suitable candidates [for refractive surgery] have maybe had doubt put in their mind by misleading and incorrect articles that appeared in the media,” Mr Moulsdale told OT.
He added: “We believe that the volumes have now stabilised and we’re hopeful that the second half of this year will show less of a decline than the first half did against the previous year, and potentially even some moderate growth.”
The chief executive was also quick to quash circulating rumours that a number of Optical Express clinics were to close, saying: “I think it was a bit of a smokescreen put up by Optimax to try and deflect attention away from some of their genuine closures.”