Look local: Discoveries in Maidstone

Kent’s county town has a lot to offer. Zoe Wickens looks at what its optical services feature

Maidstone is known as the county town of Kent. The River Medway runs through the centre and there is evidence of settlement in the area dating back to before the Stone Age. The town’s optical services bring it up to date with the latest technology for its patients.

Sanjay Patel, ophthalmic director at Specsavers, has worked at the practice for 23 years. ‘Maidstone is the county town for Kent and has enjoyed exceptional growth and development over the past 10 years, making it one of the busiest town in Kent in terms of volume of residents and visitors,’ says Patel. ‘We have matched this growth too. Since our Specsavers store opened in 1992, we have been continually expanding to cater for the needs of our growing loyal customer base. Some of the expansion was time-based, covering seven days a week and extended opening hours and some was physical expansion of the floor space and number of test rooms.’ Indeed, the practice went from three testing rooms to 14 optometrist rooms.

The practice offers DVLA testing and all examination rooms have Nidek auto-phoropters. There are also two rooms for audiology.

Patel says: ‘We are shortly due to launch dry eye clinics in the contact lens department where we use Topcon video slit lamps for our contact lens patients. We are delighted to be installing an OCT in October. We already have an OCT in the new Specsavers store within Sainsbury’s in Larkfield on the outskirts of Maidstone.’

As for what brands are the most popular, Patel says: ‘The very wearable and feminine styles from Cath Kidston and Karen Millen are popular, with Superdry for an edgier contemporary look and Gant for a subtle sophisticated look for men.’

Paula Gray, practice manager at Tinsons Opticians, has worked at the practice for nearly 30 years. She says: ‘Maidstone town has a wonderful atmosphere and is quite picturesque in places, especially being by the River Medway. We find our patients are like good friends or family, as they have often been coming for many years.’

The practice itself has been in the town for almost 35 years. Gray adds: ‘We are an independent practice and have a great reputation in Maidstone for specialising in full eye examinations and personal care with a great after care service, something we’re very proud of.’

Tinsons Opticians has an enhanced clinic. This includes a fundus camera and specialist contact lens care. ‘Our sight test and full eye examinations are usually about 40 minutes long, so we try to give the best possible care and personal attention,’ Gray says.

Who’s in town

Total: 6

Independents: 2

Multiples: 4

Average costs

The price of an eye exam in Maidstone ranges from £0 to £37.50, at an average cost of £17.50.

Population - see pie chart

Population: 166,360

Community eye care

According to the Locsu Atlas Map of Optical Variation, Kent & Medway Local Optical Committee has a contract with West Kent CCG in Glaucoma Repeat Readings and Ophthalmology Referral Triage.

Health and affluence

  • The average house price in Maidstone is £351,051 (Zoopla), compared with a UK average of £225,621 (Land Registry, 2018)
  • Maidstone has an average salary of £24,705, compared with a UK average of £27,271 (Payscale, 2018)
  • In Maidstone, it is estimated that 7,020 people live with early stage age-related macular degeneration (RNIB Sight Loss Data Tool).
  • By 2030, it is predicted that 10,340 people in Maidstone will be living with sight loss – an increase of 49.6% (RNIB Sight Loss Data Tool).

Fact file

Andrew Broughton was the mayor of Maidstone in 1649 and was responsible for declaring the death sentence for Charles I. A plaque memorialises Broughton as mayor and the regicide.

Paper-maker James Whatman and his son invented wove paper, writing paper with a uniform surface, at Turkey Mill on the outskirts of what is now Maidstone in 1740.

A close to complete specimen of the iguanodon, pictured, was discovered in a Maidstone quarry in 1834 by the former Lower Greensand Formation. It was identified by Gideon Mantell as an iguanodon based on its distinctive teeth.

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