100% Optical

On stage at 100% Optical: Handling paediatric complaints

Richard Edwards, clinical consultant to Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS), will be delivering a session on paediatric complaints in the AOP Lounge at 100% Optical 2022

Richard Edwards

From clinical decision making, to new materials and social media, 100% Optical 2022 will see a programme of more than 130 engaging education sessions on topics from across optics. Ahead of the event, OT’s Q&A series highlights the key themes from just a few of the sessions that will take place during the show.

What is the focus of your session at 100% Optical?

Richard Edwards
The session evolved from an observation made in my role as clinical adviser to the OCCS. Most of what we deal with is predominantly consumer related, but when we looked and analysed the complaints related to eye examinations, the prevalence of paediatric examinations was over indexed.

When we deal with these complaints, a couple of things come to mind. One is that, when you're dealing with paediatrics – under 16s – there is a higher legal jeopardy for registrants. We were also noticing was there is also a propensity for the complaint to escalate quite rapidly because parents were very concerned about their children. That meant those kinds of complaints could become a bit trickier to navigate.

I've taken three examples of the kind of complaints that we get at the OCCS, which lend themselves to peer group discussion, to discuss: if this landed on your lap tomorrow, how would you deal with it?

Who is this session for? Who might benefit the most from joining?

I think the session is applicable to both optometrists and dispensing opticians because, while some cases we deal with are related to eye examinations in the consulting room, others are related to paediatric dispensing and the regulations around that.

It’s important to emphasise that even if a case is around a query with the eye examination of the optometrist, when people come into the practice to complain, very often it's the dispensing optician at the front of the practice who is in the firing line to deal with it.

Whatever the issue is about, if a complaint lands in your lap you need the skills to have effective conversations with patients in order to apologise for the fact that they're unhappy, to explain in jargon-free terms what has happened, to reassure them and take ownership for dealing with that complaint.

What are some of the key messages you wish to highlight around paediatric complaints?

There's always a risk that the complaint can escalate fast. Parents will be very anxious about the wellbeing of their children, so we've got to address that and try and work out what is triggering the complaint – because it's not always obvious.

I do think for paediatric complaints there's always the risk of an inadvertent breach of the Opticians Act. All aspects of childhood dispensing have to be supervised. I want people leaving the session to be really vigilant and have a good system in place in their business to make sure that, if anyone asked a question, they have an audit trail and could evidence the fact that all aspects of that paediatric case have been appropriately supervised by a registrant. We don't want an accidental breach of the Act to result in what could be a relatively low level issue escalating into a potential regulatory matter.

The session also gives registrants a message to take back to their practice and remind their colleagues: that these are things we need to be on top of when we're dealing with kids.

What else should attendees look out for from you at the show?

The peer discussion session How do you talk about AMD? came out of an annual report. The theme is how we communicate around AMD. Whether it's early stage dry, or the classic tricky one, when someone's maculopathy has gone from dry to wet and the question is: ‘Why didn't anyone predict this was going to happen?’

What we've done for this session is taken anonymised cases that we've had in the past to use in discussions and ask: ‘here is the clinical data, if this complaint came in, how would you address this patient’s concern?’