Eye tests are a hugely important part of any healthcare routine, and Specsavers in Derby is on a mission to make sure that locals can access this service for free.

For the first time, the opticians in the Intu Centre is removing all charges on eye tests, as part of a campaign to ensure that the whole community can access vital healthcare.

A word from the store director 

‘Many people may have been missing out on important health checks because they either don’t see eye tests as part of this or are worried about the cost,’ explained Uan Gohil, store director at Specsavers Derby. ‘We’re trying to raise awareness about how an eye test is so much more than just a prescription check – it’s a way of monitoring the overall health of the eyes and the areas surrounding them.’

The importance of eye tests

The store has chosen to make the move of scrapping eye test costs after 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[1].

‘It’s shocking to see that the cost of an eye test is preventing people from accessing the care they need,’ continued Uan. ‘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 we use during examinations means that we can see the eyes and their surrounding structures in detail, allowing our optometrists to pick up the smallest anomalies.’

Customers who have benefitted from the quick-thinking of Specsavers Derby’s optical team and the state-of-the-art Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) technology have been keen to raise awareness of the link between eye tests and general health.

Earlier this year, customer Anna Misalska visited the store after suffering from pain behind the eye and double vision. Scans revealed she had significant swelling and pressure around her optic nerve – the nerve responsible for transmitting visual information from the retina to the brain. After a referral from Specsavers led to further testing, the hospital revealed that she was suffering from intracranial hypertension – an elevation of pressure caused by excessive fluid that surrounds the brain.

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In 2017, a test at the store led to customer Peter Alcock receiving life-saving treatment. After suddenly losing his sight in his left eye, Peter visited the store, where an anomaly was detected behind his eye. An MRI at the hospital showed Peter had unknowingly suffered two mini-strokes and a subsequent scan revealed a number of tumours attached to the valves of his heart. Fortunately, the masses on his heart were benign but still put him at risk of having further strokes, any of which could have been serious, even fatal. Peter spent three weeks in hospital and was then transferred to Glenfield Hospital for life-saving open heart surgery to remove the masses and replace the valves they were affecting.

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‘These very recent cases highlight the importance of having your sight regularly checked,’ said Uan. ‘I myself have experienced this when in March I was experiencing flashes and floaters in my own vision. I asked my brother, an optometrist at the store, Glyn to perform an eye test, and he found that I had a tear in the membrane of my retina.

‘These issues can spring up 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’re looking forward to welcoming members of the community into store to take advantage of their free eye test. Our aim is to make sure that everyone in Derby is up to date with their eye checks so that we can help prevent any conditions that might otherwise go unnoticed.’

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[1] YouGov Survey commissioned by Specsavers and RNIB 23rd June -7th July 2017 of 6,430 UK adults aged 18+