After the eye examination
Your optometrist will now have detailed knowledge of the health of your eyes, the standard of your vision and any special requirements that you may have. At the end of the examination you will be advised of when you should have your next examination and you’ll also be given a prescription for glasses or contact lenses, or a statement which confirms that your eyes don’t need correction. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if there is something you don’t understand, your optometrist is there to help.
You will also be able to discuss the best form of vision correction to suit your individual lifestyle and visual needs with either your optometrist or dispensing optician.
If you need medical treatment for an eye condition you may be referred to your doctor or hospital.
What if my optometrist refers me to my doctor?
Sometimes your optometrist may suggest that it would be wise to seek advice from either your general practitioner (GP) or a specialist.
If you need to be referred, your optometrist will inform you of the reasons for referral and write to your GP. You will also be told whether you need to make an appointment to see your GP or whether your GP will contact you.
If your optometrist has asked your GP to arrange a hospital appointment for you, your GP will normally send your optometrist’s letter, along with a covering letter with any relevant medical details, to the hospital. These letters will be read by the specialist at the hospital who will decide how urgently you need to be seen. The hospital will then write to you with an appointment time. You may request to see any letters that are written about you.
Optometrists may also refer patients directly to a hospital eye department rather than via the GP although they must inform your GP of their findings and the reason for the referral. You should also be given a copy of the referral letter.
If you have not heard anything from your GP or the hospital within a few weeks of your optometrist referring you, then you should contact your GP. Your optometrist may not automatically be told whether you have been seen by your GP or the hospital. As the urgency of appointments depends on the urgency of your condition, you should not worry if there appears to be a long time to wait between receiving the appointment notice and the date of the appointment.
In exceptional circumstances, where your eye condition requires urgent attention, it may be necessary for your optometrist to refer you directly to a hospital accident and emergency department. In this case, your optometrist will normally give you a letter to take with you and inform your GP of the reason for referral.
Can my optometrist treat eye disease?
All optometrists have access to a wide range of eye drugs for diagnosing and treating eye disease. They can sell or supply certain eye medicines to patients. Alternatively, they may give you a written prescription so you can obtain medicine at a pharmacy.
These drugs include, for example, anti-bacterial eye drops for treating conjunctivitis (‘red eye’) and certain anti-allergy drugs and ocular lubricants.
In addition, optometrists who undertake extra training have access to an additional list of drugs allowing them to manage a wider range of eye conditions.
There are some patients who are assessed first by a general practitioner (GP) or an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) and who agree to a course of treatment, or health management plan, with their optometrist.
For these patients the optometrist can issue repeat prescriptions for eye drugs and may adjust the dose while the GP or specialist undertakes regular reviews.
Optometrists able to take part in this scheme require a higher level of training.
Eye conditions that optometrists are most likely to encounter and manage are:
- infective conjunctivitis
- allergic conjunctivitis
- blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids)
- dry eye
- superficial eye injuries.
Choosing glasses or contact lenses
If you wish to have glasses, then the optometrist or dispensing optician will advise you on the best type of frame for your needs and prescription. As part of continuing care and service your optometrist will be happy to adjust or make minor repairs to your glasses where possible.
If you don’t want to wear glasses, contact lenses may be an option, either to wear on a regular or occasional basis. If you would like to try contact lenses, your optometrist will be able to discuss the advantages and disadvantages with you, and fit these. If you wish to be fitted with contact lenses you may need to return to the practice for a separate appointment to be fitted with them, as well as to be taught how to handle and look after them.
If you are not satisfied with your glasses or contact lenses make sure that you contact your practice. The College of Optometrists advises you to be careful about buying glasses or contact lenses from somewhere different to where your eyes were tested – if you have any problems, it can be harder for them to be sorted out.
Most optometrists will send you a reminder when your next appointment is due. However, if you have a problem with your vision or your eyes before your next eye examination is due do not wait – contact the practice and make an appointment.
What if I’m not happy with my service?
If you are dissatisfied with the service or conduct of your optometrist you should try to resolve any difficulties directly with the practice. In most cases your problem will be successfully resolved.
Some people have trouble getting used to their new glasses. This is more likely to happen if it is a long time since you had a new prescription, because a big change in prescription will take a while to get used to. You are most likely to get glasses you are happy with if you stick to the same optometrist or practice, because that means they can get to know what prescriptions and sorts of lenses you’re most happy with.
If you have your glasses made up (dispensed) by the same practice that did your eye exam, anything that you’re not happy with will be easier to sort out than if you have your glasses dispensed by someone else. See ‘Can I take my prescription elsewhere?‘.
The General Optical Council has produced the leaflet What to expect from your optician, which you may find useful.
If you are unable to reach an amicable agreement with your practice you can refer the matter to your local Trading Standards Officer or local NHS organisation via your practitioner (NHS patients only). Alternatively, you may refer to one of the following bodies:
Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS)
6 Market Square
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire
Tel: 0844 800 5071
If your complaint involves serious professional misconduct, send in a filled-in investigation form to:
Fitness to Practise team
The General Optical Council
41 Harley Street