Specsavers has launched a free nationwide sight and hearing consultation service offering advice via video and telephone link.
The service is designed to cover a range of concerns regarding eye and audiology health and aftercare.
Developed in line with NHS recommendations on remote consultation, the new service is open to everyone, whether or not they are currently a Specsavers customer.
It can be accessed securely from any digital device or over the phone if video link is not available.
Specsavers is one of a number of organisations that are fast-tracking changes to their services to respond to the evolving needs of customers in the current crisis and the longer term.
Giles Edmonds, clinical services director at Specsavers, said:”With our stores currently only able to offer urgent and essential care to a limited number of customers, we have been exploring innovative alternatives to in-person appointments.
“This is clearly significant given the present restrictions, but it is a service that we plan to continue for the long-term to ensure that everyone – especially those who are particularly vulnerable – can access the care and support that they need.
‘Lockdown is affecting all of our lives and there are already fears that people are delaying accessing essential health services in the current situation. This solution removes a number of barriers, especially with health services already under immense pressure.
“We hope that Specsavers RemoteCare, our video consultation service, will in some way help people who might otherwise have gone to their GP or to the local A&E unnecessarily.
‘Without access to expert advice and care from our opticians and audiologists, quality of life could be greatly impacted and wider health put at risk – this is of particular concern for older people,’ according to Edmonds.
Stores will also be able to advise customers on how they can locate their prescription and buy new glasses.
GP and media medic Dr Sarah Jarvis said: ‘Clearly optometrists and audiologists cannot carry out all the detailed examinations that they would normally do via a video connection.
“But there are a surprising number of eye health issues which can be dealt with by taking a thorough history and by looking at the outside of the eye during a video consultation.
“As a GP, I regularly diagnose eye problems without the specialist equipment optometrists have in their test rooms and with so many patients unable to access face to face appointments with their GP, and concerned about attending A&E departments, this service could be invaluable.
“Optometrists and audiologists using video consultations can offer reassurance and recommend treatment for many conditions, providing relief from symptoms and peace of mind. They can also advise patients when their condition does need urgent assessment.”