March 6, 2024

Why can I buy glasses for £6 online but not from you?

Why can I buy glasses for £6 online but not from you?

Something we often come across is patients bemoaning the cost of glasses. Especially now ubiquitous adverts are offering glasses from £6. So why are they more expensive from an optician?

Firstly, opticians are highly qualified health specialists. That comes with requirements for a certain level of equipment on site. The NHS perform practice visits every 3 years and demand, rightly, all practices have a minimum level of equipment to test eyes. That costs a lot money. For example the machine to assess your posterior eye health costs £30k. The equipment to assess you anterior eye costs £7k, the equipment to actually test your eye prescription costs a minimum of £5k. That all has to be recouped for a practice to thrive. As professionals we have to pay fees to our regulatory bodies, thousands of pounds a year in some cases. The online sellers have none of these costs unless they are qualified opticians which they almost always are not.

They also often use lenses and frames of a lower quality than those your optician will supply. These will likely scratch more easily and be less durable than normal. Also, they cannot for obvious reasons adjust or amend your glasses when they arrive. Often glasses will need slight tweaking at the ears or nose to fit optimally. Good luck finding an optician willing to adjust glasses bought online. The market for an online supplier is obviously worldwide, they can supply to Australia, America, Germany, wherever they wish. A community practice will clearly only have a much smaller, local market, which increases the costs.

All of this adds to a slightly increased costs. And I do mean slightly. We supply glasses from £49 complete. For that you get a quality frame with quality lenses, a manufacturer's guarantee, all the adjustments you need in perpetuity. Even the cash-strapped NHS give the optician £42 for supplying basic glasses, if they thought they could be effectively and safely supplied for £6, they would do so.

Ultimately if patients take their prescription and have it made up online (which they are perfectly entitled to) you might find your local optician is no longer sustainable. And who will see you then if you wake up with a painful red eye, sudden loss of vision or some other emergency? Because you can be certain there won't be an online option for that.

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