Specsavers in Ashbourne has made a move for accessible community healthcare, by offering locals free eye tests. Ashbourne store director, Andrew Wells, is on a mission to make sure that locals can experience the very best in eye care, for free.

Free eye tests

The store on Victoria Square is removing all charges on eye tests until the end of September, as part of a campaign to ensure that the whole community can access vital healthcare.

‘It’s maybe an odd concept to see eye tests as anything but a prescription check but they are actually an important part of a general health routine,’ explained Andrew. ‘We’re hoping to raise awareness around this and ensure that as many people as possible in the local community can access this service.’

The facts

A joint survey between Specsavers and the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) found that nearly a third of those in the East Midlands haven’t had an eye test for more than the optician-recommended two years.

When asked for a reason, 40% cited the perceived cost of a test or glasses, and 17% said they did not see the value of a test as part of a general health routine.

‘We were shocked by the survey findings, in particular that the cost of an eye test is preventing people from accessing the care they need,’ continued Andrew. ‘Having an eye test regularly allows us to build up a picture of how your eyes are changing over time, which allows us to spot any potential problems quickly and easily.

‘We’re hoping that with the cost element removed, more people will come in and have their eyes checked.’

Advanced testing technology

As part of all sight tests at the Ashbourne store, customers benefit from Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) technology; the latest and most advanced non-invasive test to detect even the smallest anomalies within the eye.

The cutting-edge piece of equipment, usually found in hospital eye departments, is used for a variety of functions including screening and management of conditions such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma. The OCT machine produces a structural scan of the eye, including layers of the eye that would not normally be visible using traditional eye testing techniques.

Andrew explains: ‘We have seen customers in the past where a routine eye test has led to the discovery of a life or sight-threatening condition. The advanced technology available in the form of the OCT machine used during examinations means that we can see the eyes and the surrounding area in detail, allowing our optometrists to pick up the smallest anomalies.’

Life-saving care

One of these cases was a recent customer returning from a holiday and noticing his vision had deteriorated.

‘I used the OCT to scan the rear of his retina, which showed clearly that his optic discs were swollen – a condition known as papilledema. Papilledema indicates raised pressure inside the skull, which could be caused by life-threatening conditions such as a brain tumour or bleeding. Luckily for this customer, we were able to refer him for treatment and he made a full recovery.

‘Cases like this highlight the importance of having your sight regularly checked. Some issues are symptomless until the later stages, or can develop quickly and without warning, so it’s important that eye tests are carried out every two years, or more frequently if you’re worried about symptoms or if recommended by your optician.

‘We hope that everyone in the community will take advantage of their free eye test. We’re committed to helping members of the Ashbourne community ensure that they are getting the best possible eye care without the cost.’

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