Cost of sight test, pressure to buy spectacles and physical closeness among patients' bugbears

Public perceptions research from the GOC reveals common sources of patient discomfort about visiting an optometrist

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More than one in 10 patients have felt uncomfortable about visiting their optometrist because of pressure to buy spectacles or contact lenses, research from the General Optical Council (GOC) reveals.

The latest public perceptions research, based on interviews with 2000 UK adults, was presented at the GOC Council meeting (10 July, London).

The report reveals that most (59%) patients surveyed had not felt uncomfortable during a visit to the optometrist.

However, among those who had experienced discomfort, 15% reported feeling uncomfortable because of pressure to purchase spectacles or contact lenses while 13% highlighted the cost of the sight test as the reason for their unease.

Other issues included fear of being diagnosed with an eye problem (10%), an aversion to being touched or someone coming close to their eyes (9%), the pressure to book an eye test (7%), being told that they need glasses (7%) and having someone physically close to them during the eye test (6%).

GPs are still first port of call for eye problems 

When asked what action patients would take if they woke up with an eye problem, 32% said they would go to a GP while 25% said they would visit an optometrist.

The proportion of survey respondents who would visit their optometrist was higher in Wales (33%), Scotland (34%) and Northern Ireland (28%) than in England (20%).
Reasons given by patients for not visiting an optometrist first included that they might not be seen by an optometrist on the same day, that an optometrist could not prescribe the right medication or that they did not have the right treatment expertise.

When asked how they would classify optometrists, survey respondents most commonly chose a combination of a healthcare service and retailer (46%), compared to those who selected healthcare service (31%) or retailer (20%) alone.

Frequency of visits

The majority of survey respondents (69%) had visited an optometrist in the past two years.

Those who were more likely to have visited an optometrist within this time frame were female respondents, older respondents and those who lived in Northern Ireland and Wales.

Of those surveyed, 6% said that they had never visited an optometrist while 10% said that they had been to an optometrist more than five years ago.

Patients continued to have high levels of satisfaction in the service that they received through optometrists, with 96% saying that they were fairly or very satisfied with the optometrist who conducted their eye test and 94% satisfied with their overall experience at the optical practice.

Only 6% of respondents had complained about the service they received at an optometrist.

Of those who had something go wrong during their visit to the optometrist, 58% of patients had received an apology compared to 41% who had not.

Image credit: Laurence Derbyshire