Specsavers stores in England, including the optical and audiology services in Seaham and Peterlee, have reopend for routine testing.
This follows approval from NHS England, having operated an urgent and essential care only service throughout the COVID-19 restrictions.
The full breadth of optical and audiology services, including routine eye and hearing tests, contact lens consultations, frame repairs and the sale of glasses, contact lenses, hearing aids and other products, are now available.
‘With lockdown measures easing, we’ve now extended our services in line with the latest government and NHS guidelines. This means that, for the first time since lockdown, customers are able to book routine eye and hearing tests,’ says Specsavers Clinical Services Director Giles Edmonds.
To help manage social distancing, stores are currently unable to offer a walk-in service. Customers should book an appointment in advance by phone or online via specsavers.co.uk.
New hygiene and personal protection measures include restrictions on the number of customers allowed in store at any one time, strict social distancing rules and, where possible, card instead of cash payments.
In line with NHS guidance, Specsavers colleagues will use personal protective equipment (PPE) and all testing equipment and frames will be thoroughly sanitised after each use.
Specsavers has also introduced a new in-store role to reassure customers who may feel apprehensive about visiting the opticians after lockdown. The Customer Care Guide will greet customers on arrival and assist them through the new testing process, providing reassurance and answering any questions.
‘The Covid-19 pandemic has presented an unprecedented challenge in the management of eye and hearing care,’ says Mr Edmonds.
‘Throughout lockdown we remained open to offer customers essential and urgent care. However, being unable to perform routine eye tests has meant that many people could be living with serious conditions which could have been identified if we had been able to see them.
‘Our own data on hospital referrals shows that in England, compared with the same 10-week period last year, we have referred 80,000 fewer patients to a specialist or for further care. Of most concern clinically are those whose symptoms would not yet be noticeable, such as those with early glaucoma, early diabetic maculopathy or early Age-related Macular Degeneration.
‘We would ask customers to be patient with us as we welcome them back,’ he adds. ‘The guidelines designed to keep customers and colleagues safe will mean fewer people allowed in stores, and maintaining high levels of cleanliness may mean testing takes a little longer.
‘But we want to encourage anyone who has missed their usual sight or hearing test during lockdown to book an appointment as soon as possible, so our teams can return to providing the highest levels of care throughout England.’
Customers unable to attend a store can still access care and support through Specsavers RemoteCare video and telephone consultation service, and Specsavers Ask The Expert Facebook group, while glasses and contact lenses can be bought online with a current prescription at specsavers.co.uk.
The dates for the reintroduction of routine eye and hearing tests in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are yet to be confirmed. Specsavers will adhere to each country’s industry and government guidance once this is established.