Undercover: we expose laser eye surgery clinicsA third of the visits were rated poor by experts

18 August 2014

5 Laser eye surgery-FB

Some high street clinics are giving unsatisfactory advice about the risks of laser eye surgery, and even pressuring customers to sign up, a Which? investigation has found.

A third of the 18 consultations given to Which? researchers posing as potential patients were rated 'poor' by an expert panel, with leading chain Optical Express the worst.

We also surveyed laser eye surgery patients, so you can find out which clinics are rated the best and worst by Which? members who have actually had the operation. Which? members can click to discover the best and worst clinics. We've also got the best and worst rated optician stores.

Not yet a Which? member? You can sign up for a £1 trial and access our results plus all the reviews on the Which? website.

Laser eye surgery risks

As with any surgery, potential laser eye surgery patients need full information about the risks for their particular eyes to make an informed decision.

Serious long-term complications are rare but, in extreme cases, patients have debilitating long-term problems, such as severe dry eyes, and could even lose some sight. So our expert panel was concerned that a third of clinics visited played down the potential risks of surgery.

One some visits, staff even played down the fact that this is surgery. On one Optical Express visit, the member of staff said: 'it’s more like a procedure, it’s not …erm…that much surgical involved… [it’s] something like a Botox injection.' 

You can find out more about the risks of laser eye surgery by clicking laser eye surgery - frequently asked questions.

Pressure sales

We uncovered some dodgy sales practices during the course of our research: 

  • Misleading sales pitch - On one visit to Optical Express, we were told, ‘We’re able to offer surgery that’s two generations better than any other company in the UK.’ We know this is not true – other companies use the same laser.
  • Questionable charges - An independent clinic asked us for a £250 consultation fee that had not been previously mentioned. Our researcher was pressured to spend £45 on eye drops, wipes and an eye bath for an eye condition (blepharitis), which our expert testing shows she does not have.
  • Lack of time - On one visit, we were offered 10% off (nearly £500) by Optical Express if we booked our treatment the same day. We do not consider this good practice, as it does not give you the time you need to do your research.

What you really pay for laser eye surgery

Optical Express advertises from £595 per eye and told us that 20% of its customers are eligible to be treated at this fee. But the lowest price we were quoted (that wasn’t a time-limited offer) was £1,195 per eye for a standard Lasik treatment.

And Optimax advertises from £795 per eye, but the lowest price offered was a Lasek treatment at £1,390. Prices even varied considerably for the same person.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: 'Laser surgery could revolutionise your vision, but it does carry risks and clinics should be making these clear upfront. Anyone thinking of having the procedure should make sure they aren’t pressured to sign up before they’ve had time to do thorough research.'

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