Lord Dick Newby writes: A simple solution to an otherwise blurred vision

adjustable spectacles

Yesterday, I introduced a Bill in the Lords to permit over-the-counter sale of adjustable focus spectacles. At present only reading glasses can be sold in this way, with all other types of eyewear requiring a visit to a qualified optician or optometrist.

The spectacles in question achieve the required focus for each eye by turning a dial found at the side of each lens. They are produced to a very high quality and are useful for both to deal with some medical issues – eg types of diabetes where sight varies from day to day – and more generally as a spare or temporary pair of glasses. They are manufactured by an Oxford-based company, Adlens. They are sold in 57 countries worldwide including Japan and the US, where 500,000 units have already been sold, many without prescription.

However, in the UK, the only glasses which can be sold without a prescription are reading glasses. Although technically the Department of Health could just amend the legislation, it relies on advice from the General Optical Council (GOC) – the opticians’ regulatory body. Despite supportive expert opinion, the GOC has come up with a raft of issues – some of which are entirely spurious and none of which are decisive – to prevent the Adlens glasses being readily available.

My Bill came only 33rd in the ballot, so stands relatively little chance of progressing. However, I intend to use it to put pressure on both the GOC and Government to change the law. This is one of those issues where there is a simple and straightforward way of improving the choice available to consumers which is only being thwarted by the obstructive attitude of a professional body, whose sales could be impacted by my proposal. In other words, it is a thoroughly liberal proposal.

* Dick Newby is the Leader of the Liberal Democrats n the House of Lords.

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  • Thank you Dick – I love to see vested interests confronted like this. There may be good reasons why people shouldn’t self-prescribe reading glasses like this, but I doubt it and the GOC should be forced to justify their position.

    When you’ve finished with them, please could you also take a look at why hearing aids that cost less than £100 to make end up costing over £1500 by the time they find their way into your ear?

  • Stevan Rose 9th Jun '16 - 8:29pm

    You can, of course, always buy the model in the photo online from a wide choice of retailers, including direct from Adlens. The obstructive attitude of professional bodies is easily thwarted by the Internet. However there do not appear to be any obstacles to buying these glasses. Go to the Adlens website and buy without restriction but that website also tells you exactly why you should get proper examinations by qualified professionals and that the product is not a substitute for examinations and prescriptions.

    I get a free prescription from Tesco, a basic pair of specs for £15 or less, and a decent pair from an online optician. Frankly I wouldn’t take chances with your eyesight – an optician is not just checking your vision but also for underlying symptoms of other conditions. And it needn’t cost anything for many people or at most £10-£15 by shopping around. Opticians must give you your prescription that you can get filled anywhere, including buying the premium prescription version of the Adlens glasses direct from them. I’m not clear what this Bill is supposed to achieve that isn’t already available.

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