Should optometrists ever work alone?

1 February 2024
Winter 2024

Traditionally, optometrists have worked solo, often for many hours in a dark consulting room. This brings advantages, as well as disadvantages, writes Anna Scott. So what is best practice?

Whether they work in their own fixed premises, patients’ own homes or within care homes, optometrists’ lack of close or direct supervision can form a large part of their professional experience. This is the reality for many optometrists working in smaller independent practice and as locums, but also for those in hospital clinics and multiples.

Working alone brings specific risks to employees, taken into consideration under law. Generally, 68% of companies surveyed for the StaySafe Lone worker landscape report have experienced an incident (mental health issues, fatigue, accidents, ill health, aggression and violence) involving a lone worker in the last three years. More specifically, 59% of incidents involved stress and mental health issues and tiredness, and 41% of incidents involved accidents, ill health, aggression and violence (StaySafe, 2022 ). 

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, anyone working alone – including those contracted, employed and self-employed – must be protected from health and safety risks, which are the responsibility of both employer and employee (Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 2023).

This means careful consideration of training, supervision and monitoring lone workers, staying in touch with them and responding to any incidents. Lone workers are particularly at risk of violence in the workplace. This can lead to stress and poor mental health. Even without the threat of violence, a lack of colleagues and managers can affect employees’ mental wellbeing (HSE, 2023).

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