Letter: How much are we worth to the VDU service providers?
Author: Peter Sanders
According to all the companies that negotiate on behalf of opticians with large organisations our work is not worth much.
The NHS pay us £21.31 for a sight test which I have no issue with.
The average cost of employing an optometrist is £22 per test. However, this does not take into account the costs of overheads in the consulting room. We also have to employ staff to make the appointment. The real cost of a sight test is actually closer to £50.
Company A thinks that a sight test is only worth £10 but they charge the organisations £15.
Company B issues vouchers that have a face value of £19.95 but we only get £15.70.
Company C only pays a pathetic sight test fee if there is no dispensing involved. If there is a dispense they pay nothing for the sight test and only pay a dispensing fee. If there is a private dispense they pay nothing.
And there are many more of these companies that give away our services for next to nothing.
The latest one I was obliged to give a discount of £25 off the sight test and a further discount of £25 off the spectacles. A total of £50 off.
Either they do not value the work we do or they find it easier to give our services away. The latest company to do this puts all opticians on their website without any prior agreement. The employee comes in and says that we are on the website to accept the voucher.
Many of these companies have not put up the sight test fee in more than 10 years.
As a trade we sit back and take this on the chin. Why? The amount of business that they produce is not that great. One company suddenly decided to take a load of independent opticians off their books.
These companies’ justification is that they are driving business through our door. The amount of business they are driving through our door is not so great that we have to demean ourselves to giving a first class service at a bucket shop price.
Ultimately they want us to subsidise their inability to market a product at the right price.
As far as I am concerned they are only paying the right price for a screening service. Maybe these companies should attend Optrafair or 100% Optical and take part in a seminar to get the opinion of the people whose service they are giving away.
I hope I am speaking for all independent opticians. The only problem is that the multiples are quite happy to let this situation go on instead of trying to get the market value for the service provided.
Could we say that the voucher only covers the checking of VDU sight. However, the full eye examination costs more.
Is this where we start to fight back at people who for too many years have abused our good nature and belittled our professional abilities to line their own pockets
I think it is high time we had a debate about this and not let people who have nothing to do with optics give away our services. If you have an opinion on this subject email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.