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Every little doesn't help.

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THE AVAILABILITY of cheap and free sight tests is driven by the shamefully uneconomic NHS sight test fee (other than in Scotland) so I have not previously criticised companies for making such offers. But this enforced cross-subsidy damages optometry and forces spectacle wearers to subsidise sight tests for those who do not. No political party will go into the general election demanding that the ill should subsidise the healthy, but that is what they impose on optometry.

However, the vainglorious announcement by Tesco that they are replacing the NHS by offering free sight tests is stomach churning hypocrisy. Tesco is using eye care as a giant loss-leader and as a cheap publicity push aimed at building market share, dressed up as a move to advance eye health. Inconsistently, they include sufficient weasel words to carry on claiming NHS fees. If they were sincere in their claims they would stop claiming from the public purse, but none of us should hold our breath.

Most surprising is that they have gained the support of the RNIB who are quoted as believing that cost is a significant barrier to people getting eye tests. This flies in the face of their own 2007 survey which found that 60% of the public assumed that "... sight tests are for people with problems already.", and that an additional 10% had not thought about having their eyes tested. The RNIB report concluded that "... the cost of eye tests is clearly no longer an issue." For one of our partners in the UK Vision Strategy to misrepresent the profession, and to do so in the face of their own evidence, is disappointing and divisive.

Bob Hughes, AOP chief executive bobhughes@aop.org.uk

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Title Annotation:COMMENT; eye tests
Author:Hughes, Bob
Publication:Optometry Today
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 12, 2010
Words:286
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