If you have children under the age of 16 or under 19 and in full time education and who need glasses read on.
As soon as a child has an eye test that shows they require glasses they are entitled to a discount voucher from the NHS, the amount is dependant on the prescription. My 16 year old's prescription is -0.5 and her voucher is for £37.50.
Our optician showed her the frames in the shop, this is a small shop in a small town in Buckinghamshire so the selection was pretty awful. She mentioned something about a discount on the glasses but inferred that this was in their shop, we were none the wiser. When I said that there was nothing of interest and we would be going elsewhere to find frames I had to really press them to give me her prescription. I asked if we should purchase the frames elsewhere and bring them back in to have the lenses fitted and was told 'no', it was better to have the lenses fitted at the same place as the frames were purchased, at this point they reluctantly handed over the prescription but only when I insisted that their range was limited (pretty awful and really boring) and I wanted the prescription to go elsewhere to find frames. I was told that they had a discount voucher and I could come back and use it if I decided to get the frames there in the end, I said that I wouldn't and off we went. There was no mention that this was an NHS voucher and that by law they are required to hand it over at the time of the eye test.
So on Saturday, we trogged off to High Wycombe specifically to get her glasses, armed with the prescription. Eventually we found a pair we liked, queued for ages and talked to the very nice lady who asked for the NHS voucher. "What voucher?" i asked. I was then told about the above and that by law the optometrist is required to give me the voucher and it is illegal to do what my local optician did. I was also told that this was standard practice and that opticians hold onto them in the knowledge that customers have to go back to get them once they find out about them and they buy spectacles from the shop as they can't be pestered to go back to another again. These vouchers come in a standard NHS issued pad and have about 3 lines to be completed so not much writing and no excuse not to hand them over.
I went into said optician, Chilton Watson in Princes Risborough (yes I am naming and shaming, I've been a customer here for 15 years and I don't expect to be treated like this) and asked for my voucher. When I complained I was told that they take a long time to prepare (rubbish) and they always tell customers to come back for them (we know why they do that don't we?) This is illegal and opticians doing this need to be hung out to dry.
So, rather than my daughter having her glasses now (they would have been ready in an hour on Saturday) we have to go back into Wycombe and start again which is going to delay her being able to see properly for another couple of weeks.
Chilton Watson are well aware of my anger over this but this practice has to stop so please make sure that you get your NHS vouchers and hang any opticians who try this on out to dry. I'm sure there are some honest opticians out there but with this recently experience I will not trust any of them in the future.