In the 1980s, the optical profession experienced significant change brought about by broader government policy to create more competition in the economy through deregulation. In 1984, the Sale of Optical Appliances Order of Council legislation opened the door for non-registered optical practitioners to sell ophthalmic appliances.
Dr Neil Handley, museum curator at the British Optical Association Museum, said: ‘Some business interests lobbied the government in favour of the order, however, the profession in general were largely resistant. And although it was argued that the impact was primarily on dispensing optics, the College of Optometrists sought to amend the proposals to ensure that the clinical examination of the eye by qualified professionals, including optometrists, was protected.’
The order also meant that price advertising for dispensing services and optical appliances was allowed and consumer-targeted advertising became widespread. Deregulation undoubtedly shaped the optical profession’s current form as evidenced by the growth of multiples and popularity of branded eyewear.
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