Specsavers female optometrist

Care during COVID: ‘I saw years of pathology in 12 weeks’

Darhsana Chauhan, ophthalmic director at Bedford, St Neots and Dunstable, shares her experience of providing clinical care during COVID-19.

During lockdown in the COVID-19 pandemic, my four Specsavers practices in and near Bedford were only open to emergency and essential care. As every customer was triaged by phone for ocular emergencies, I mainly saw patients with sight-threatening conditions. I saw years worth of pathology in 12 weeks so even as an experienced optometrist I developed my optometry skills.

I worked alongside Bedford Hospital eye service who were an incredible support to me. I saw several cases of corneal foreign bodies; the hospital eye clinic coached me on the safest way to remove them. Not only did I learn this new skill, but the patients didn’t need to go into hospital. Patients felt safer coming into the community than attending hospitals during the pandemic. We continue to work closely with the HES department now, reducing unnecessary referrals.

Post COVID-19 lockdown, this last week, we have now seen private customers with symptoms or for essential care. We’ve found that as more people start to return to work, they have noticed their eyesight has deteriorated and say they are in need of new prescriptions. All customers are triaged for symptoms and COVID-19 before attending the store. We reassure them that we have their safety in mind. Because we have been open for care throughout lockdown, I am familiar working along-side social distancing rules and PPE. I feel safe at work, but most importantly, my customers and colleagues/staff are safe too.

Because we have been open for care throughout lockdown, I am familiar working along-side social distancing rules and PPE. I feel safe at work, but most importantly, my customers and colleagues/staff are safe too.

I found we are managing a lot of dry eye customers, as many people continue to work from home the VDU use has increased considerably resulting in dry eye symptoms. As all our optometrists are MECS accredited, they can provide management and treatment either by RemoteCare video consultations or in-store.

One of the challenging things during this time is explaining to customers the new in-store experience. Their safety comes first, from sanitizing all optical equipment, frames and chairs, to staff wearing PPE. Feedback shows customers are impressed with the store is layout for social distancing and feel safe during their visit.

It was challenging for the team at first to learn new patient engagements, with PPE and social distancing, plus video consultations and dispensing over the phone, of course in line with the GOC guidelines. However, the staff have adapted to the change well, and for those returning to work it has helped that we have been in communication with them socially throughout lockdown.

I am proud to have stayed open for care throughout lockdown and continue to provide emergency and essential care during the pandemic. It’s been an emotional time in my career but I am so glad that I am here providing optical care for the public in their time of need. People have told us that they are truly grateful for the services we’ve have provided, from repairing broken glasses to referring life-threatening conditions. We will continue to provide professional optical care in the safest way to all.

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