As Optician goes to press, details of another optometry petition have just landed in my inbox, so I have done something of a last-minute pivot. Lucky really, because I had been tempted to talk about birthday honours.

Anyway, I fear I’m starting to suffer from ‘petition fatigue,’ as my initial reaction wasn’t to drop everything and find out more. Instead, I made a note to look at it later after the issue was closed. ‘Stop multiples exploiting optometrists and endangering patients’ is fairly persuasive language, however, so over lunch I decided to find a bit more about it.

Addressed to the Council, AOP and the College, the petition’s author outlines what they feel is scant regard for patient and practitioner safety against the backdrop of social distancing and the coronavirus pandemic. Not only have testing times started to become shorter, the ‘unethical’ practice of adding ‘ghost’ bookings to already full clinics, meaning some optometrists no longer have time to sanitise consulting rooms and change PPE, claims the petition.

Ultimately, practitioners were said to be left with a choice of compromising on the length of time of the consultation, or on the level of sanitisation.

Such allegations are extremely concerning, not least because current economic conditions mean the protest option of walking out on the role is no longer there. It would be a shame if employers were leveraging this to their advantage, but from reading some of the comments from those that have signed the petition, it seems to be the case.

The issue of ghost clinics isn’t particularly new, but prevalence does seem to be on the increase. Indeed, the Ophthalmic Practitioner Group union has already red flagged ghost clinics. However, unless a brave practitioner or group stands up and provides hard evidence of a company working against guidelines, I feel this latest petition may be rather ineffective.