An undercover Which? investigation has found that half of opticians do not meet sight test quality standards.
The product reviews company sent researchers into independent and multiple practices and assessed recordings of the appointments.
It found that 13 out of the 30 consultations were rated as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ by the Which? panel.
Which? revealed that in the worst cases, optometrists issued inaccurate prescriptions and also failed to warn patients about common eye health problems.
The report found that in a number of cases at multiple practices, ‘important tests’ were missed.
It noted that only one independent or small regional chain received an ‘excellent’ rating during the whole report. Another was rated ‘good’ and one was rated ‘satisfactory.’
Which? magazine editor Richard Headland said: “Our research, while only a snapshot, shows some shocking findings including too many instances of inaccurate prescriptions, inconsistent advice and failure to provide the correct eye tests.”
In response to the investigation, Specsavers, who Which? found to have one ‘not satisfactory’ visit and three ‘satisfactory’ visits, said that it is committed to providing professional eye care and welcomes all feedback to improve customer service.
A Specsavers spokesman told OT: “All optometrists will use their own professional judgement to determine which procedures are appropriate for each individual consultation. We support our optometrists to learn and to share best practice through delivery of a sector leading comprehensive training and development programme.”
Boots Opticians, who had two ‘satisfactory’ and two ‘not satisfactory’ visits, explained to OT that it takes this feedback seriously, but requires further information on the specifics to be able to fully assess and respond to the investigation.
A spokesperson said: “At Boots Opticians, care for our customers is at the heart of what we do. Our optometrists are trained and qualified eye health specialists, and we follow guidance set out by the College of Optometrists.”
The multiple added that there are some instances where an optometrist will use their clinical judgement to assess whether some tests are appropriate, and highlighted that the College sets out what to do in an eye exam in these instances.
Operations director at Scrivens Opticians & Hearing Care, Adrian Ellis, said: "Scrivens has over 80 years' experience of delivering community based eye care and is proud of its track record in providing a professional and friendly service. We welcome the Which? findings and will take any lessons to be learnt on board and make sure they feature in our continuous professional development training."
Asda Opticians' response to Which? said that the review does not reflect the standards maintained across its offering. Optical Express explained that they were surprised to hear this feedback and that the examples do not reflect the high-quality service it offers.
Tesco said it would look into the findings and Vision Express said it will be taking steps to understand why standards had fallen short in the specific cases detailed by Which?
Optical Express’ clinical service director, Stephen Hannan, said that the multiple was “very surprised” to hear the findings of the report.
“The four examples do not reflect the high-quality service that Optical Express delivers to patients in our clinics every day,” he explained.
“We are keen to address any service or performance issues that these four examples may highlight, and so we hope Which? will be willing to share with us details of the Optical Express branches that were visited and the dates of those visits,” Mr Hannan added.
Optical Express added that all of its optometrists are highly trained and registered with the General Optical Council (GOC), which requires them to undertake Continual Education and Training (CET). Therefore, ensuring “continuous quality improvement.”
A Vision Express professional services spokesperson highlighted that in a September 2016 Which? study, the multiple was awarded four out of five stars for its sight test experience.
“We deeply regret if our usual high standards have fallen short in these specific cases and we’ll be taking steps to understand why this has happened, so we can ensure every customer who walks through the doors of a Vision Express store receives the very best in eye health care,” the company added.
Asda Opticians’ response to Which? said that the review does not reflect the standards maintained across its offering. Tesco also said that it would look into the findings.
No cause for concern
A GOC spokesperson said: “As the national regulator of the optical professions, we take very seriously any research that raises concerns about public protection. We will be contacting Which? to obtain further details of their study as soon as possible so we can assess the concerns raised and take any regulatory action that might be appropriate.”
The AOP has also responded to the findings and stated that there is no evidence to suggest that the findings are typical across the sector.
The Association added that it hopes the report does not cause concern for the public.
Optometrist and clinical director at the AOP, Dr Peter Hampson, said: “All registered optometrists and dispensing opticians are governed by set Standards of Practice to ensure patient care remains at the centre of their professional practice. Findings from our 2017 survey into the wellbeing of UK optometrists indicates that many within the profession have a deep sense of accountability and diligence.”