GOC survey illustrates shift in public perception of optometrists

For the first time, optometry practices are the most popular first port of call when respondents are asked where they would go with an eye problem

A wooden reception desk with the word ‘welcome’ printed in white letters sits in front of a grey wall. On the wall, the blue lettering of the General Optical Council logo is printed.

The General Optical Council (GOC) has published its annual report exploring the public perception of optometrists.

For the first time since the research began in 2015, more people would choose to visit an optometry practice if they woke up with an eye problem than any other healthcare provider.

Among the representative sample of 2020 survey respondents living in the UK, 36% said they would go to an optometry practice if they woke up with an eye problem while 33% said they would visit a GP practice.

When the survey was first conducted in 2015, only 19% of respondents said they would visit an optometrist if they woke up with an eye problem.

This year’s survey revealed significant differences between nations: 49% of those surveyed in Northern Ireland would visit an optometry practice compared to 46% in Scotland, 39% in Wales and 30% in England.

The public perceptions survey also revealed that 94% of respondents who had received a sight test in the past two years were satisfied with the experience, while 92% were confident about receiving a high standard of care from an optometry practice.

Around one in ten (13%) respondents reported that something had gone wrong with their care or the service they received when they visited an optometry practice. Within this group, 56% said they received an apology while 42% did not.

Director of regulatory strategy at the GOC, Steve Brooker, shared: “The profession should be proud that public satisfaction and trust levels remain high, and I would like to thank all our registrants for their continued hard work and commitment.”

Interviews for the research were carried out between 27 January 2023 and 13 February 2023. The full report can be read online.

The AOP view

Responding to the GOC survey results, chief executive of the AOP, Adam Sampson, said: “We know that our members offer an outstanding level of patient care day in, day out across the UK – and this latest data is further evidence of that fact.”

Sampson added that the findings are also a timely reminder of the greater role optometrists can play in alleviating pressure on the healthcare system.

“With expertly trained optometrists easily accessed on the High Street and patients who feel safe under their clinical care, it is essential that we make full use of the existing primary care optometry network. There is no excuse for patients to endure extensive waits and, tragically in some cases, preventable sight loss, as a result of a broken commissioning system,” Sampson emphasised.