Ultralase was sold earlier this week for £30m to Spanish cosmetic group Corporacion Dermoestetica, claimed to be Europe's biggest cosmetic surgery company. The business immediately announced it would open six new clinics in the UK and the Republic of Ireland between now and 2007.
Ultralase chief executive Christopher Neave told optician there would be openings for optometrists following the expansion. 'Optometrists are involved in preoperative assessment of patients and aftercare, so there will be an extension of that for these new clinics,' he said.
'Also there is Ultra-eyecare, a network of 500 practitioners, primarily independent optometrists, who have been trained by us to provide a first level of advice for patients.'
Neave claimed this week that the purchase was 'the most exciting development in the provision of eye laser and cosmetic surgery in the UK in the past 10 years'. And, although Ultralase had not opened any new clinics in the past 18 months because of the weakened demand in the UK laser eye sector, he confidently predicted the market would recover.
'There is a huge potential yet in laser corrective and other refractive corrective procedures,' Neave said.
'The per capita uptake of laser correction in terms of the population in Spain versus here is in order of four or five times greater,' he said.
'There are other procedures that will gather momentum - intraocular lenses of various kinds for example, and there may be other services that optometrists can offer.'
Neave is to reinvest in the business himself, but he stated that national newspaper reports of his financial gain from the sale were incorrect.
Following the purchase, Corporacion Dermoestetica has 73 clinics in Europe - in Spain, Portugal, Italy and the UK. It expects to open 22 more by the end of 2005.
Ultralase has carried out over 100,000 laser eye treatments since the company was formed in 1990. Now the company will also offer a range of cosmetic surgery procedures as well as its core optical proposition, including breast surgery, face lifts and liposuction.