Optician receives plenty of practitioner correspondence, but there was one letter recently that caught my attention because the content highlighted just how difficult it can be to walk the line between first class patient care and corporate retail optometry. Some will believe there isn’t a distinction – but not optometrist Sharon Stirling.

Stirling explains that on March 1, 2021, she saw three visually impaired patients. Two required high reading adds, but all three needed illuminated stand magnifiers, which her employer didn’t stock. She had also been told previously not to carry out low vision assessments by her line manager because the company ‘didn’t have a contract’ to do so.

Believing she was doing the best for the patients in question, Stirling says she gave each of the patients an illuminated magnifier, which had been purchased by herself and brought to the practice to show a dispensing optician that was interested in low vision. Stirling believes the patients would have all struggled to buy the products online and points out the local hospital had
suspended low vision assessments at the time.

The following day, Stirling says she was told all of her patient appointments for the day had been cancelled because she was under investigation. ‘Surely I would have been negligent if I hadn’t given the patients the magnifiers?’ she asks in her letter?

Three informal meetings followed, then a formal meeting with a year’s written warning – which Stirling is very unhappy about, especially as the manager ‘had no clinical training whatsoever.’

Stirling says one of the patients cried in the consulting room when he could read N8. The challenge for practitioners in corporate retail environments is balancing the policies of the employer with the General Optical Council’s Standards of Practice. Optician will be giving Stirling and her employer the opportunity to explain if and how both parties can work truly in tandem.