Which? probe reveals eye test worryAlmost half were poor or very poor quality

30 August 2007

 

An eye test board

The optometrist should ask you several questions to establish risk factors

Almost half of eye examinations are poor or very poor quality according to the latest undercover research by Which?

We sent optometry students into 39 eye-testing practices and found mixed results in quality, accuracy and thoroughness.

The practices included supermarkets, national and regional chains, and independent practices.

The students asked for routine eye tests and those who wear glasses said they'd lost them so they could not be used for reference.

Expert panel

A panel of expert optometrists then rated each part of the visit and the prescription.

Our research found that:

  • 17 out of 39 examinations were considered to be poor or very poor – mainly due to missing essential tests
  • seven out of 36 prescriptions were inaccurate - and some could have caused headaches and blurred vision
  • 27 examinations failed to check how well the eye muscles work together
  • ten optometrists failed to ask whether the patient had experienced headaches and six failed to ask about family history
  • 14 examinations took less than 20 minutes – the time experts say is needed for a thorough test. The two shortest lasted just ten minutes.

Just one national chain’s practice and one independent optometrist were awarded top marks for tests carried out.

'Inconsistent standards'

National and regional chains fared no better than independent practices, although national chains charged on average £18.80 for a standard eye test, compared to £21.50 for independents and £24.80 at regional chains. There was no link between price and quality.

Which? Editor Neil Fowler said: ‘Good quality eye tests are vital for good health, so it’s really worrying that we found such inconsistent standards in our research. 

‘We want the General Optical Council to carry out spot checks of eye tests, to stop people's health being put at risk.

‘Eye tests are complex, so it can be hard to know whether you're getting a decent quality of service. Ask how long an exam will take – if you're told less than 20 minutes, or less than 30 minutes if you're older or at more risk of eye problems, then go elsewhere.’

Optometrist tests

When you visit an optometrist they should ask the reason for the visit, about eye problems, general health, family history of eye health and lifestyle, including computer and car use as well as hobbies.

Tests vary but a good optometrist will include:

  • vision tests: visual acuity, retinoscopy, subjective refraction, reading addition
  • eye movement tests: cover test, motility, near point of convergence
  • health tests: ophthalmoscopy, tonometry, visual field.