When you visit an optician for an eye examination they should test whether your vision needs correcting (usually with glasses or contact lenses) and conduct a general check of the health of your eyes. By law, opticians must be registered with the General Optical Council (GOC).
The different types of optician
The GOC regulates opticians, students training to be opticians and optical businesses in the UK. This means that all opticians have to register with us in order to practise in the UK and we are responsible for making sure they reach and maintain their professional standards. This page tells you about what you can expect when you visit your optician.
We register two types of optician:
Optometrists, who are the people who test your sight and check the health of your eyes. They can also measure, fit and supply glasses, low vision aids (such as magnifiers) or contact lenses. With extra training, some optometrists can also prescribe drugs for certain conditions affecting the eye.
Dispensing opticians, who are the people who measure, fit and supply your glasses or low vision aids (such as magnifiers). With extra training, some dispensing opticians can also fit and supply contact lenses and are called contact lens opticians. An eye exam must always be conducted by a registered optometrist or doctor, and contact lenses can only be fitted by an optometrist or contact lens optician. Glasses must be measured, fitted and supplied by a registered optometrist or dispensing optician if you are registered as sight impaired or are under 16. For other people, glasses can sometimes be fitted by staff with a title such as optical assistant who are not registered with the GOC.
We also regulate student opticians, who may sometimes treat you during their training year between finishing university and fully qualifying. Students must always be supervised by a registered, fully qualified professional.
Standards of practice
Opticians have to meet certain standards to ensure the care, well-being and safety of their patients. These standards cover opticians’ education and training, their professional development and the way they behave towards you. We explain these standards in detail below.
Your optician must:
1. listen to you and make sure you are at the heart of decisions made about your care;
2. communicate effectively with you, in a way you can understand;
3. make sure you agree to any tests or treatment they give you;
4. show you care and compassion, particularly where you may experience pain, distress or anxiety;
5. keep their knowledge and skills up to date;
6. not undertake work for which they are not properly trained;
7. carry out the right assessments, examinations, treatments and referrals;
8. keep adequate records of the care they provide you;
9. make sure that your safety and care is not compromised when delegating tasks or supervising other colleagues;
10. work together with colleagues in your interests, both with fellow opticians and other healthcare professionals (such as doctors) as appropriate;
11. show fairness and respect to you and never discriminate;
12. respect your privacy and maintain your confidentiality;
Ensure your safety
13. protect and safeguard you from harm, raising concerns when they feel you might be at risk;
14. ensure a safe environment for you as a patient;
Behave appropriately to you
15. maintain appropriate professional boundaries with you;
16. be honest and trustworthy;
17. not act in a way that would damage the reputation of the optical professions;
18. respond to complaints effectively; and
19. be open and honest with you when things have gone wrong.
If someone who is on our register does not meet these standards, we can stop them from working in the UK or we can restrict the work they are allowed to do.
What can you do if your optician does not meet these standards or behaves in any way that you feel is inappropriate?
If someone on our register does not meet our standards and is not able to do their job safely and effectively, we can stop them from working in the UK. Or, we can restrict the type of work they are allowed to do.
If you wish to make a complaint about a person on our register, you can visit our main website at www.optical.org or phone 020 7580 3898.