The College of Optometrists

Sale and supply of spectacles

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Key points

  • You must supervise unregistered persons in the sale of spectacles and other optical appliances to people in restricted groups.
  • You must be on the premises at key stages of supervised sale and supply.
  • You should make sure the spectacles you supply meet the patient’s needs.
  • You must communicate clearly with the patient about the purpose, use and maintenance of their spectacles.
  • You must make arrangements for patients to receive aftercare as far as and for as long as is reasonable.
  • Requirements for sale and supply when the patient is not present are the same as face-to-face sale and supply.
  • You should only make up spectacles using prescriptions over two years old if it is in the patient’s best interests.
  • Patients have a right to take their prescriptions elsewhere.


Unregistered persons must not sell prescription spectacles to children under 16 and patients who are registered as sight impaired or severely sight impaired unless the sale is supervised by a registered practitioner.94 See sections on Supervising the sale and supply of spectacles and Working with colleagues


94 Opticians Act 1989 s27(1)(b)


All spectacles or other optical appliances should be sold and supplied by, or under the supervision of, an optometrist or dispensing optician, even if an unregistered person could legally complete the sale without supervision. You should decide what is in the best interests of the patient. 
When selling and supplying spectacles to a patient you must ensure that patients or their carers have all the information they need to safely use or look after any optical devices they have been prescribed95
You should:
  • explain clearly to the patient the purpose and function of the spectacles
  • ensure the spectacles are suitable for the patient’s needs
  • take and record facial, frame and other appropriate measurements before ordering the spectacles
  • check that the spectacles are CE marked and conform to the relevant standards96
  • check that the spectacles correspond to the written prescription or sight test record
  • fit them to the patient to ensure the correct plane, height and position
  • check them on the patient for fit, comfort and function, making any adjustments before the patient takes them away
  • check against a letter chart or equivalent, where appropriate, to ensure the correct acuity.
You may make up spectacles without a prescription, for example by duplicating an existing pair of spectacles, if you feel this is in the patient’s best interests.
You must make arrangements for the patient to receive aftercare as far as and for as long as is reasonable.97


95 General Optical Council (2016) Standards of practice for optometrists and dispensing opticians para 2.5 [Accessed 22 Oct 2017]
96 British Standards [College members only] [Accessed 27 Oct 2017]
97 Opticians Act 1989 s27(3B)

Supervising the sale and supply of spectacles

Please read in conjunction with section on Supervision in the Communication, partnership and teamwork domain.

You may delegate the sale and supply of spectacles but you remain responsible for the whole process. 
You must be on the premises when you are supervising the sale of spectacles to someone in a restricted group (that is, patients under 16 or who are registered as visually impaired) at key stages of the sale.98  
If you are supervising someone undertaking the sale of spectacles to a patient you should ensure they have taken the steps listed in para A268
If you work in a team with others it should be clear on a daily basis which professional is responsible for the supervision of sale and supply. The practice should ensure that supervisors are in a position to fulfil their supervisory role. 


98 GOC v Boots Opticians Ltd, Richard Simmons and Trevor Burgess 2009

Prescriptions over two years old

Unregistered persons must not dispense prescriptions that are more than two years old.99
You may sell and supply spectacles to a prescription that is more than two years old. 
If you decide to make up spectacles for a patient who has not had a recent eye examination you should: 
  1. only do this in exceptional circumstances, and
  2. act in the best interests of the patient.


99 Sale of Optical Appliances Order of Council 1984

Sale and supply when the patient is not present

You should not sell and supply spectacles without ensuring: 
  1. that the patient’s measurements and visual needs have been assessed and verified, and
  2. that any optical appliance you supply meets these measurements and needs.
You should ensure that adjustments and minor repairs can be made to the spectacles.  
You must make arrangements for aftercare.97 


97 Opticians Act 1989 s27(3B)

Taking the prescription elsewhere

Patients have a right to have their prescriptions dispensed where they choose. You may advise your patients of the potential difficulties of separate prescribing and dispensing, particularly if they have a complicated prescription or lens form. The College has a suggested form of words which you may wish to use on your prescriptions:

'You have a right to have your prescription dispensed wherever you choose. However, as prescribing and dispensing of spectacles are closely linked it is best to have your spectacles dispensed where you have your eyes examined. It is often more difficult to resolve any problems you may have with your spectacles when prescribing and supply are separated.'

If you receive a prescription for dispensing from another practitioner and there is an anomaly or a complaint of non-tolerance after dispensing, you should, with the patient’s consent, contact the prescribing practitioner. You should agree a course of action with them and the patient. The Optical Confederation has produced guidance on this.100

Ready-made reading spectacles

If you sell and supply a pair of ready-made reading spectacles you must satisfy yourself that they are suitable for the patient’s needs.101

Sports eyewear

You can only sell and supply prescription sports eyewear under the same conditions as other optical appliances.  

In-house glazing

If you assemble spectacles you must register with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).102 This applies to: 
  1. practices that carry out their own glazing
  2. practices where the frame is traced and lenses edged remotely, prior to assembly in the practice, and
  3. new products and does not relate to reglazing patients’ own frames.


102 MHRA Registration of medical devices [accessed 27 Oct 2017]

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