On the ground

Coronavirus: on the ground in Coventry

The most difficult part of COVID-19 for independent prescribing optometrist Susan Bowers was not being able to visit her mother in her final days

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As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic transforms the way optometrists practise, OT is sharing the experiences of optometrists across the UK and beyond. If you, or a colleague, is interested in sharing your story please get in touch by email

My practice is in Coventry and has been operating for 35 years. I am an independent prescriber with a glaucoma diploma and I had an FP10 pad for the last nine years. During the lockdown, patients couldn’t get repeat prescriptions very easily so it was useful to have a prescription pad.

I have worked in hospital glaucoma clinics for nine years. I did seven and a half years at the University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire and then I moved to Warwick Hospital. I tried to do everything I could before we stopped working to try and get my patients’ pressures down.

Susan Bowers
Susan Bowers

We will be very busy once we get the go-ahead and resume the clinic on Friday (26 June) We are going to have a backlog of cases that we haven’t seen in the community. They might be stable – but how do you know they are stable if you don’t check them? If they are unstable, then they are losing their sight and no-one is actually measuring it.

On the last day before I stopped working in the clinic, I had a 73-year-old lady who lived on her own in a village with no bus service. She has already lost the vision in one eye and she was trying to get enough field of vision in the other eye to carry on driving.

I knew that she needed surgery, but we couldn’t list her for it. I emailed the consultant and said as soon as the lockdown finishes I need to list this patient for surgery. The eye department closed down at Warwick completely. They were running a skeleton service at Stratford with injections for wet macular degeneration and for emergencies. 

Even though there have been few cases, patients may have a sense of uncertainty. We need to address those fears as we move forward with routine testing


At my practice, we only saw emergencies during lockdown. I wore personal protective equipment (PPE) and made sure the patient did as well. We saw an increase in cases of people injuring their eyes while doing DIY without goggles. The local hospital was only telephone triage, and there are some things that you need to physically see.

I felt duty-bound to see patients during lockdown because I don’t have some of the risk factors that colleagues might have. Although I have not yet had an antibody test, I think I had COVID-19 when I was in Tenerife. I lost my sense of taste, then I became tired and felt like I had a weight on my chest. I had night sweats and couldn’t swallow. We were staying next door to the H10 Costa Adeje Palace which is where there was the first outbreak of COVID-19 in Tenerife.

Susan Bower’s mother Doris in a dress Susan made her for her 90th birthday

• As told to Selina Powell.