The College of Optometrists

Partnership with patients

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Key points

To maintain a good relationship with your patients you must:

  • make the care of the patient your first and overriding concern.
  • give patients information in a way they can understand and make them aware of what to expect. 
  • respect patients’ dignity and privacy.
  • listen to patients and take account of their views.
  • assist patients in exercising their rights and making informed decisions about their care.
  • respect the choices they make.

Communicating effectively with patients

You must make the care of the patient your first and overriding concern.187
You must give your patients information in a way they can understand and make them aware of what to expect. They should have the opportunity to ask questions or change their mind.188
You must be alert to unspoken signals which could indicate a patient’s lack of understanding, discomfort, or lack of consent.189
You should identify yourself clearly to your patients, including your name, as it is shown on the GOC register.
You should not make false or misleading statements, for example when describing your knowledge, experience or specialty.
Only if you are currently a College member can you use the affix MCOptom or FCOptom. You should not use this in conjunction with the affixes D.Opt, FBOA, FSMC or FSAO.
You should give patients the following, as appropriate:
  1. full and accurate information about the optometric services you offer
  2. an explanation of technical expressions
  3. information about their condition
  4. a clear description of what can and cannot be achieved with a prescribed appliance
  5. written information, for example appointment letters, in:
    • accessible formats, and
    • large print for visually impaired,190 and
  6. clear information about any referrals. See section on Working with colleagues.
You must respect patients’ dignity and privacy. This includes a patient’s right to confidentiality.
You must listen to patients and take account of their views, including their preferences and concerns, responding honestly and appropriately to their questions.
You should not convey disapproval of patients' preferences, life choices or beliefs.
You should encourage patients to comment on the services you provide.
You should make arrangements, where it is practical, to meet patients’ communication and language needs.
If you are responsible for practice staff you should ensure they have relevant training in communication skills and the awareness of visual impairment.
You should allow patients to be accompanied by someone in the consulting room.
You must assist patients fully in exercising their rights and making informed decisions about their care. You must respect the choices they make.
If you are examining children, or adults with learning disabilities or acquired cognitive impairment, you should involve parents or carers in making decisions as appropriate and where it is in the patient’s best interests. See section on Consent.
You should offer patients appropriate written information about local or national services which can help them, for example how those diagnosed with sight-threatening conditions can get help. Leaflets on some eye conditions are available from the College.
You do not have to tolerate abusive behaviour.

Methods of Communication

If you provide NHS services you must take steps to provide information to disabled patients in a format of their choice. This may, for example, include writing to them in large print, or sending them information electronically. The Optical Confederation has produced guidance on this.191
You should ask for patient consent if you wish to communicate with your patients using electronic methods, such as email or text. You should act promptly if a patient asks to receive their communications in a different format. The Information Governance team of NHS England has provided guidance on using email and text messaging for communication with patients.192 If you do not provide NHS services, you should take similar steps.

Communicating about the costs of your services

You must explain to patients the costs of the professional services and products you are offering before they commit to payment.193 194 
You should itemise the costs of:
  1. options available for lenses and frames, and
  2. any additional features, such as coatings or tints.


193  Consumer Protection Act 1987 [Accessed 1 March 2017]
194 Price Marking Order 2004, SI102

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