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Home eye tests: Supporting ExtraCare residents in Birmingham

Mr Akbar Karim, Lead Optician for Specs at Home, provides a home eye test service at several of ExtraCare’s Birmingham retirement villages. This National Eye Health Week, he explains how home eye tests work and how he supports residents in taking care of their eye health.


The most remarkable thing I find about home eye tests is how few people know about them!

Home eye tests, also known as domiciliary eye tests, have been around for ages yet many patients and healthcare professionals are totally unaware of their existence. In addition they’re free of charge (NHS funded) to eligible patients.

How do I know if I’m eligible for a free home eye test?

Eligibility is simple. People have the right to a free NHS eye test when they hit 60 years of age. For people over 60 with a physical or mental reason that makes getting to the High Street difficult without help, the NHS eye test becomes free at home.

Specs at Home working with ExtraCare

The wonderful Well-being Advisors have been referring eligible residents to me for several years.

In that time, beyond the routine spectacle updates and improved vision you’d expect from eye tests, I’ve referred ExtraCare residents to Hospital Eye Departments to rule out or treat eye diseases or to Low Vision Services like FOCUS. I’ve picked up Hospital Eye Department out-patients that have moved from other parts of the country to ExtraCare Villages and referred them into locally-based Hospital Eye Departments.

Most importantly I’ve explained the findings of every test I’ve carried out to residents and the Well-being Advisor. This three-way approach to feedback (Practitioner – Patient – Well-being Advisor) is different to the traditional Practitioner – Patient only feedback in practice but massively important as Well-being advisors are very knowledgeable and well placed to follow up on any clinically significant findings which ultimately benefits the ExtraCare resident.

Once a referral has been received what does Specs at Home do?

1. Arrange a convenient date and time with the resident (family and carers are encouraged to attend) for a home eye test – typically lasting 45-60 minutes.

2. Leave a copy of the prescription with the patient, where eye test findings are summarised in simple English, and an eye test feedback form with the Well-being Advisor.

3. If spectacles have been dispensed they are delivered usually within two weeks by the Optician that carried out the test.

4. Follow up with patient when next due (12, 24 months or sooner if clinically necessary) – patients have a contact number for the Optician and are always seen by the same Optician. Specs at Home have a NO LOCUM policy which makes for better continuity of care.

Supporting all patients

Most people (no doubt aware of the challenging questions asked during the eye test, “Clearer with one? Or two?” etc.) ask me how I can test a customer with dementia or learning difficulties.

The short answer is with time and effort! Many patients I test at home have special communicative needs so the extended test time I give each patient is crucial and with specialised testing equipment (like eye test charts with pictures instead of letters) and my extensive domiciliary experience I take great professional pride in getting as much communication as I can possible out of patients.

Obviously many patients have no communicative difficulty at all – receiving a home eye test for physical reasons only.

In summary Home Eye Tests are readily available for those eligible. With the extra time taken, specialised equipment and skill from the Optometrist involved they should be every bit as thorough as a ‘normal’ High Street test – if not more so – that’s certainly what I aim for with Specs at Home.