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“Our new clinic in Birmingham is at the heart of the city centre”

Optical Express’ new flagship clinic and treatment centre has been opened in Birmingham. OT  found out more

OE clinic tour
Optical Express has opened a new flagship clinic and treatment centre in Birmingham City Centre with the company suggesting its long history with the city makes it the “perfect place” for the new site.

The company invested over £3 million in the new 10,000 square foot clinic and treatment centre, which was officially opened by West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street.

On the opening, the company said its clinic team would aim to educate patients and the wider public on the benefits of refractive surgery.

Optical Express also said the new clinic and treatment centre would help to increase capacity, reduce waiting times and alleviate demand on local NHS services, with services including cataract treatment.

OT spoke to Optical Express clinical services director, Stephen Hannan, specialist refractive optometrist, Simon Bahia, and Birmingham clinic manager, Jonathan Hodson, about the new facility.

What was behind the decision to open the new facility?

Stephen Hannan (SH): Optical Express has been providing eye care in Birmingham for over 25 years. The strong connection we have with the city and its residents makes it the perfect place to open a new flagship clinic, with one of the largest investments Optical Express has ever made in a new location. Investing in the latest diagnostic and treatment technology helps us to attract world-leading surgeons and optometrists, and ensures that our patients have access to, and are provided with, the best possible care.

OE clinic opening
Optical Express clinic opening

How does the opening of the new facility fit the company’s response to the pandemic, and represent its long-term goals?

SH: Optical Express is continuing to grow, opening new clinics across the UK, and that has continued during the pandemic. In the past three months not only have we opened this new flagship clinic in Birmingham, we have also opened another treatment and eye care centre in Dartford, Kent, as well as a further consultation clinic in Dumfries.

We look forward to continuing this success, with big plans for growth, opening more new high-tech clinics, diversification of services and recruiting new clinicians to support the level of patient care we will deliver across the country. Ultimately, we want to make community-based eye care more accessible to patients.

I’m proud of the contribution Optical Express clinics and staff have made to alleviate the pressure on the NHS during the pandemic.

Getting used to patient care without a patient in front of you was a new challenge in itself but it only helped my skills as an optometrist

Simon Bahia, Optical Express specialist refractive optometrist

As a practitioner, could you tell us what the past year has been like in practice, and what this new step means to you?

Simon Bahia (SB): The past year has been a whirlwind for us all. I was fortunate to have still been working during the first lockdown to help with emergency patient care and help reduce general footfall to the NHS emergency eye services. It was during this time that we started to move forward with a lot of telemedicine appointments. Getting used to patient care without a patient in front of you was a new challenge in itself but it only helped my skills as an optometrist; and we actually still utilise these appointments when preparing patients for their surgery. I was very well supported by my colleagues in our clinical services team.

There has also been a big focus on the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene in general – which should be priority in any health care setting regardless of the pandemic. I have noticed patients taking greater care and having a better understanding of hygiene, especially when related to contact lens wear. For us in a refractive setting this was a win-win as we were able to better educate patients about their eye health related to contact lens wear; and it acted as a wake-up call for patients to understand the option of refractive surgery.

Can you describe the new facility? Is there any element you are particularly excited about?

SB: Our new clinic in Birmingham is at the heart of the city centre. The clinic is divided into two floors. The lower floor houses all the diagnostic screening equipment, as well as the optometrist testing rooms. The second acts as the surgery suite where both laser surgery and refractive lens exchange are routinely carried out by our experienced surgeons.

What I’m most excited about is the access we readily have to state-of-the-art diagnostic scans. We have optical coherence tomography, Pentacam, IOL Master and a Specular Microscope, just to name a few. We sometimes incorporate the use of these during advanced eye tests – not just in consultations for patients interested in refractive surgery – which allows us to pick up on details which would have otherwise been missed in a routine eye test undertaken without these excellent technologies to hand. I have picked up countless cases of early keratoconus and dystrophies in patients attending for routine eye tests.

When the patient realises what we have picked up they are incredibly impressed and very grateful. On days when we have surgeons on site, it is very easy for us to 'pop upstairs' and get a second opinion from a highly experienced ophthalmic surgeon. Where else in mainstream optometry practice would this be possible?

What was the official opening like?

Jonathan Hodson: It was a very proud moment for myself and the staff who had the opportunity to speak to the Mayor and showcase the new clinic. He seemed very impressed by the facilities and the range of services we offer to patients. Myself and the team looks forward to welcoming many patients to our facility here in Birmingham and providing them with the highest level of care.