A General Optical Council investigation has been launched after a video was published on social media featuring a member of Specsavers staff explaining how the practice had been operating in the latter-stages of lockdown, potentially breaching rules on essential eye care implemented by NHS England during the outbreak of Covid-19.

In the video, the staff member detailed how the practice had noticed an increase in the number of walk-in patients, seen increases in the number of eye test bookings and claimed that patients had brought their custom to the practice while other opticians in the areas were closed. The staff member also highlighted that patient flow in the practice was managed outside of the practice by employees and showed the social distancing measures put in place inside.

‘We have received several complaints about a video of a Specsavers store which suggests they are carrying out routine eye tests,’ the Council said in a Twitter post. ‘Our fitness to practise team is considering this matter in line with our rules and legislation.’

Responding to the content in the video, Giles Edmonds, Specsavers clinical services director told Optician: ‘The video that has appeared on social media featuring an individual Specsavers colleague does not represent the overall company’s view, and is disappointing as it appears misleading about the intention and motivation of our thousands of committed professionals across the nation.

‘The mandate given to our partners in England is very clear – to stringently adhere to all the current NHS England and professional guidelines. No patient can be seen without a full triage to determine in the store professional’s judgement whether they can be seen under the definition of essential care.’

The Association of Optometrists said the video was of the deepest concern, adding that the AOP had been contacted by many of its members. The claims made in the video about “stealing” patients and revenue from other practices will concern everyone in the sector, especially when so many dedicated optical staff are without work or being asked to accept lower rates,’ said AOP chief executive Henrietta Alderman.

The Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (OFNC) recently announced an expanded range of situations where patient needs could be deemed essential. These included patients who required an appointment due to clinical risk factors that were being monitored by clinicians and where patients had experienced anxiety over changes in vision.

‘While in the initial stages of the pandemic deferring these appointments was acceptably low risk and justified when balanced against the risks of providing face-to-face care, the passage of time since the last examination may now have increased the risk to the point where the patient’s needs now fall within the definition of essential care,’ the OFNC said.