Having an eye examination is only part of the process of getting a new pair of spectacles. The best most accurate prescription in the world counts for nothing if the spectacles have not been dispensed accurately. Dispensing opticians are qualified and registered with OCI and AIO to retain their registration they spend much time updating their knowledge through continuing education and training programs making them experts in their field. From a patients perspective the objective is simple, to see clearly through a pair of spectacles that are going to enhance rather than detract from their looks. The expertise needed to achieve that goal is somewhat more complex.
Modern materials and technological breakthroughs in both design and manufacture mean we have fantastic lenses at our disposal. We all appreciate the need for brilliant lenses in an excellent camera and now spectacle lenses can be made to the same exacting standards, the difference being that spectacles lenses are bespoke, made individually for you. Exactly where and how they are centered and fit in relation to our eyes, the angle they sit at and the distance from your eye is really important. Even the best lens in the world won’t perform at its best if you have not been measured and fitted properly. Every pair of spectacles we supply also goes through an exhaustive checking process ensuring you get exactly what you ordered. To us dispensing isn’t just choosing a fashionable frame. It’s a whole discipline in its own right.
Progressive lenses are true “multifocal” lenses that provide a seamless progression of lens strength, so you can see at any distance. Optimum-vision runs the length of the lens to allow for each distance: Look up to see far away clearly, look ahead for intermediate vision, and look down to read or complete other close-up activities.
When supervising dispensing, the actual work of supplying the spectacles can be delegated but the supervising practitioner remains responsible for the whole process of supervised dispensing.
The supervising practitioner should satisfy themselves that any person under their supervision is able to carry out these measurements or adjustments, or where this is not the case intervene as necessary to ensure these are carried out correctly.
Where the supply of spectacles is made under the supervision of a registered professional, the supervisor retains full responsibility for the supply. The supervisor must be on the premises, aware of the procedure and that they are supervising it, and have known, understood and accepted this role and their responsibilities. The supervisor must be in a position to, and able to, intervene if and when necessary to ensure that no untoward consequences to the detriment of the patient can arise from the actions of such a person who is being supervised.
If any supply is carried out under supervision it should be clear, on a daily basis, which registered professional is responsible for supervising the supply. The practice should ensure that supervisors are able, practically, to fulfil their supervisory role.
The supply of spectacles without practice support or individual consultation regarding patients’ measurements, visual requirements, verification and aftercare can put the patient at risk. A dispensing service should not be provided by a procedure where the aforementioned measurements, requirements, verification and aftercare cannot be ensured. These important patient safeguards should apply to any supply of spectacles whether regulated or unregulated. If an optometrist is supervising the supply of spectacles s/he must ensure that they are in a position to intervene in the supply and exercise clinical skill and judgement if necessary.
Patients have a right to have their prescriptions dispensed wherever they choose. However, they may be unaware of the potential difficulties that this may create if things go wrong, particularly if they have a complicated prescription or lens form. Optometrists may wish to warn patients of the potential pitfalls if they separate prescribing and dispensing and the clinic has designed a form of words which members may wish to use on their prescriptions.
‘You have a right to have your prescription dispensed wherever you choose. However, as prescribing and dispensing of spectacles are closely linked it is best to have your spectacles dispensed where you have your eyes examined. It is often more difficult to resolve any problems you may have with your spectacles when prescribing and supply are separated’.
As with any other optical appliance, when selling or supplying a pair of ready made reading spectacles the optometrist has a duty of care to satisfy him/herself that the appliance is suitable for the patient’s needs.