On the ground

Coronavirus: on the ground in Suffolk

Optometrist Will Norman on fitting an intensive care nurse with spectacles, remaining open to support the NHS and planning for the future


As the coronavirus pandemic transforms the way optometrists practise, OT is sharing the experiences of optometrists across the UK. If you, or a colleague, is interested in sharing your story, please get in touch by email.

I practice in Felixstowe in Suffolk in an independent practice called Scarborows Opticians. We have notices on all our windows and doors saying that if there are any urgent requirements or if they are a key worker then we have a phone number and email address that will be manned by myself. If there are any problems that we feel we can help with, we will come into the practice and see people.

It is daunting. The biggest thing for us is the unknown and how long it will drag on for. I have got past the worrying stage of ‘Hang on a sec, we are going to have to shut the business down and we are not going to have an income.’ I have moved on to the stage of planning for the future. How can we utilise the next few weeks to the best of our ability and be stronger coming out the other end? We want to come out of this a better business and hopefully take advantage of the boom at the other end. 

We have been calling all our regular patients to see how their contact lens supply is. We have checked if they have enough for the next three months. We are doing a delivery service for everyone to stop people coming out of their homes. We want to make sure that no-one is left stranded. We have various doctors, nurses and delivery drivers on our books.

We owe those NHS workers. We might have to rely on them at some point so we need to do everything we can to keep them healthy and working


I had an intensive care nurse walk into the practice. She was not a customer of ours but had been told that she can’t wear contact lenses anymore. She didn’t have a prescription. She was exactly the sort of person who I consider we need to be helping. We made her up two pairs of glasses. We are getting them rushed through with our lens supplier and we are arranging for one of my colleagues to pop them through her front door as soon as they are available.

She went away saying that we have a new customer and she will come back to us again which was lovely. She was obviously a little bit tentative as she was a contact lens wearer who had never worn glasses. We were starting from scratch. It was a real problem solving, thought provoking exercise. We made her a spare pair free of charge in case there was any contamination and she couldn’t wear one pair.

Will Norman
Suffolk optometrist Will Norman

Going forwards, we are looking at closing our doors, but we are triaging by phone and staying available for people with essential needs or urgent needs. We are going to aim to keep serving key workers. We owe those NHS workers. We might have to rely on them at some point so we need to do everything we can to keep them healthy and working. We need to give them all the support we possibly can. 

I think optometry does have a role in supporting the NHS over the next few months. I have been torn about what to do with the practice. I didn’t know whether to pack up all together, go home and wait for it all to blow over. Should I do nothing and protect my family? Being at work and increasing my risk of taking the infection home is a concern, but equally there is a part of me that really wants to support the NHS. If I can help, I will.

  • As told to Selina Powell.