8 June 2020

Forde Opticians: Life in lockdown - part two

Join Gemma Hill MCOptom, Optometrist and Owner of Forde Opticians, as she updates us on her life in practice and search for PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lockdown continues

“As the lockdown continues, I deal with much of the same every day; emergency repairs and orders for key workers and those who depend on their glasses. I had an interesting case last week. A female patient in her thirties with classic symptoms of central serous retinopathy. Our previous OCT found she already had a disrupted retinal pigment epithelium in her left eye, which was checked by the HES who concluded it was longstanding and of no concern. I wasn’t certain that her new symptoms were entirely unrelated. Luckily the hospital staff were quick to agree, and she has an appointment imminently. Times like this make me grateful that my ophthalmology colleagues are only a phone call away.

“I feel like I spend every day on the hunt for PPE. Thankfully I was gifted some by our local supermarket while I wait for the rest on backorder. I have also taken the decision to utilise the quiet time and redecorate parts of the practice. My partner, an artist and over-perfectionist, has been working around me to repaint the walls and is keen to update the furniture. We have friendly disagreements over the compromise between style, and seats that an elderly patient can easily get in and out of. 

“We’ve had a few sunny days in Scotland, so we try to get out on the bikes when possible. Nights in have been filled with quizzes and bingo games, but it doesn’t quite fill the void. It’s now been eight weeks since I last saw my mum and dad in person and, like everyone in this position, I miss them terribly.”


“Finally, some PPE! I feel a lot more comfortable letting patients in the practice for their repairs and replacements now I have a mask, gloves and apron. I’ve also moved on to video calls for testing. I don’t know why I was so slow off the mark on this. Only a few weeks ago giving advice over the phone felt wrong, so maybe video calling was a step too far at that point? Either way, it has made a huge difference for my confidence. Apart from getting a view of their eyes, I get to see their reactions as they answer questions, and it makes the pause while I write notes seem less awkward. 

“I have spent this week trying to organise the practice for busier times. I’m still in the process of researching guards for the reception desk (how much!?), and I’m awaiting delivery of door and floor signs for 2m distancing. I’ve scheduled a video meeting with my furloughed staff to discuss changes that have happened in their absence. Hopefully this will give them an opportunity to voice any concerns about returning to work. I currently have one staff member desperate to come back, and another content staying at home for the foreseeable future to look after her new cockapoo puppy!

“Life outside practice revolves around food and fitness. Too much of the former and probably not enough of the latter. My family have tagged on to the phrase that you’ll leave lockdown as either a hunk, a chunk or a drunk. Are those really the only options?”

Gemma Hill MCOptom owns Forde Opticians, an independent practice set in the heart of the small town of Linwood in Renfrewshire.

Read part one.

To keep up-to-date with the latest guidance on COVID-19, read our FAQs

Related further reading

A glance at what’s happening in the world of technology.

Eye health issues that are making the news.

Jane Veys MCOptom on reducing the tears and fears of our patients