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Channel 4, 28 August 2019

We are disappointed at the inaccurate representation of the role of the optometrist in this edition of Supershoppers (28 August 2019).

An optical practice is a highly skilled and equipped clinical environment, and optometrists provide a much-needed healthcare service for their patients. They study for at least four years and, during a routine eye examination, as well as checking the patient’s vision, eye coordination and determining what spectacles they need, if any – they must also, by law, examine the health of the patient’s eyes for signs of abnormality or disease in the eye or elsewhere.

The eye examination of today has evolved to include health checks that used to be available only in hospital and the suggestion that optometrists would ‘trick’ patients or that the environment is ‘deliberately contrived’ is both incorrect and offensive to the profession.

Research has been conducted on the accuracy, visual performance and patient comfort of spectacles bought online compared to those purchased in optical practices.

It is widely acknowledged that spectacles bought online may be cheaper than those purchased from an optical practice. However, the programme did not mention that, when purchasing spectacles from an optical practice, the service includes advice on the fitting of the frames and lenses, the suitability of the frames and lenses for particular tasks, ensuring that the spectacles fit properly to enable the patient to see clearly and comfortably out of the spectacles, and performing adjustments and minor repairs throughout the life of the frame. The programme also omitted to mention that, although people can spend as much as they wish on spectacles, the competitive high street marketplace means that spectacles can be bought from an optical practice at very modest cost. In addition the programme included the example of a child’s frame being available online without mentioning that – by law – spectacles for children under 16 must only be supplied by or under the supervision of a registered optometrist, dispensing optician or doctor. It should also have been noted that those under 16 are entitled to NHS optical vouchers towards the cost of their spectacles.
We are concerned that the programme may cause viewers to doubt the importance of an eye examination and undermine the work of many organisations, including the charity sector, in trying to reduce preventable sight loss. We urge the producers to include a corrective statement in a future broadcast, to ensure viewers have no doubt as to the essential role optometrists play in safeguarding the nation’s vision and eye health.

The College will be issuing a complaint with Ofcom in response to this programme.

August 30, 2019