Simon Jones: The public purse
While patient satisfaction is high, could impacts of the cost-of-living crisis turn the tables?
Author: Simon Jones
After high street optometry stood up to be counted during the coronavirus pandemic, it was pleasing to see the General Optical Council’s latest data from its 2022 public perception research showed overwhelming public confidence in the profession, with 94% of the respondents saying they were satisfied with their visit to the optometrist in the past two years.
But data can be a funny old game, as evidenced in the latest annual report from the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS). The report, which we will cover in depth next week, found the overall number of complaints received between April 2021 and March 2022 increased by 21.5% when compared to the same period in 2020-2021. In addition, complaints received by the GOC and then referred on to the OCCS because they did not meet impaired fitness to practise thresholds increased by 117% and made up 5% of the total number of complaints received by the OCCS.
With the cost-of-living crisis yet to truly take hold, the number of price-related complaints is likely to increase over the next year, warn the OCCS. It would therefore be prudent for all practices to run the rule over their dispensing processes to ensure all options and extras are explained fully to patients, because purchase regret was noted as a driver behind this type of complaint.
The cost-of-living crisis could well do more financial harm to the sector than the pandemic, and there’s a real chance that the public stays away from eye care altogether until the situation improves. At best, patients are likely to be ultra-prudent with their purchases.
How the sector responds will be critical as it must balance the rising costs of the goods and services it supplies with people having less money in their pockets. It won’t be easy, but eye health cannot suffer the ill-effects of inflation.