Close calls in dispensing optics

An engineer with a lesion behind his ear, a retinal detachment and a baby with congenital aphakia were among cases detailed at 100% Optical


The potential for dispensing opticians to refer potential cases of skin cancer was highlighted at 100% Optical (27—29 January).

Past president of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, Peter Black, told delegates how hairdressers and beauticians commonly referred people to doctors after spotting potentially cancerous lesions.

There are also opportunities for dispensing opticians to help patients in this way, he added.

“As dispensing opticians, we are looking behind people’s ears where they can’t look themselves,” he highlighted.

“I believe it is our responsibility to help them if we can,” Mr Black emphasised.

Mr Black made the comments during his presentation, Unusual and rare cases from optical practice.

During his workshop, Mr Black discussed the case of a 64-year-old engineer who spends time working in the oil industry in Saudi Arabia.

While fitting the patient with a frame, a dispensing optician noticed a suspected squamous cell carcinoma with a diameter of around 10mm behind his ear.

Mr Black asked delegates what they would do in this scenario and talked about the process of referring a patient for further tests.

He posed a follow-up scenario where the dispensing optician calls the patient to find out how the tests went, and finds out from the patient’s wife that her husband has returned to Saudi Arabia for five months without having the lesion assessed.

Some delegates questioned how much information the dispensing optician could share with the patient’s wife, considering their duties of patient confidentiality and consent.

Addressing this point, Mr Black highlighted: “You have to always ask yourself, ‘Is this in the best interests of the patient?’ If you act in the patient’s best interests you will have the support of your professional body and the regulator.”

“These things are never cut and dry. They’re never easy,” he added.

As well as referring potential cases of skin cancer, Mr Black discussed the steps a dispensing optician could take when confronted with a suspected retinal detachment and how they might approach a dispense for a nine-month-old baby with congenital aphakia.