15 June 2020

Optometrists across England expand services to offer wider care to patients

Services expand as The College of Optometrists’ survey shows 22% of people noticed their vision get worse over the course of lockdown

The College of Optometrists has announced that from today, Monday, 15 June, optometrists across England can expand their services beyond urgent and essential care. Optometrist practices will be able to provide patient care depending on their needs and symptoms, while still prioritising essential and urgent cases. Patients seeking optometric treatment are urged to phone their optometrist in the first instance, where the optometrists will provide telephone triage and consultation via telephone or virtually, dependant on symptoms. 

Research conducted by independent research agency Opinium on behalf of the College showed that only 8% of people will book an appointment with an optometrist first above other healthcare professionals, even though 22% of people noticed their vision get worse over the course of lockdown. Of those who noticed their vision get worse but did not see an optometrist, 23% were concerned about contracting coronavirus and 18% were not sure if they were allowed to visit a practice. The research also showed that 32% of people believe that spending more time in front of screens has worsened their vision, although this may feel like eye strain it’s not likely to have a lasting impact. 

Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom, Clinical Adviser for The College of Optometrists said: “We know that many people will be concerned about vision changes during lockdown. It is very important that if your vision has deteriorated or if you are experiencing a red or painful eye you should telephone your local optometrist.  They will be able to arrange a telephone consultation to help you get to the bottom of your problems and if needed they will arrange a face to face consultation.”

“We know from research that 59% of people are concerned about contracting coronavirus when it comes to an upcoming visit to their optometrist. However, optometric practices have made significant changes to ensure that eye care can be delivered to the high standards of safety that the public expect. Optometrists in England will be expected to comply with College guidance on social distancing, adapting the sight test, observing hygiene control measures and wearing personal protective equipment, such as medical face masks, during the consultation. We have created a video to show you what to expect at your optometric practice when you visit, so you might like to look at that if you are asked to see your optometrist in person.” 

To find your local optometrists, visit our directory on our website LookAfterYourEyes.org

Optometrists in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are providing essential and urgent eye care at the moment. 

The College of Optometrists advice on avoiding eye strain:

  • Apply the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. That will give your eye muscles a rest
  • Try to blink regularly
  • Position your device screen so that it is between 40 and 75cm from your eyes and is held below the level of your eyes 
  • Use a text size that is easy to see. Make things larger if needed
  • Avoid using a screen when very tired
  • If you are affected by dry eye, consider using lubricating eye drops. 

The College has created a video which explains what patients can expect and how they can prepare for a visit to their optometrist which is available on the College YouTube site


Note to Editors

  1. The College is the professional body for optometry. It qualifies the profession and delivers the guidance and training to ensure optometrists provide the best possible care. We promote excellence through the College’s affixes, by building the evidence base for optometry, and raising awareness of the profession with the public, commissioners, and health care professionals.
  2. The survey results are from an online survey conducted by Opinium, with a sample of 2,000 nationally representative UK adults (18+), fieldwork took place from 9th to 11th June 2020. Results are available upon request. 

This article was correct at time of publication. 

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