Giving Free Advice

Free Advice

It happened again this week: Peter, I need varifocals, do you think I should get the Physio ones from Boots or the Varilux ones from my local optician.... This was an easy one, but offering an opinion or giving free advice is not always that easy. It's difficult not to offer an opinion when asked, by friends and family, about ocular issues. But can your opinion count as advice and can giving free advice come back to bite you.


In negligence, any 'specialist' has a greater duty of care to other individuals than other members of the public. As a registered optometrist, your actions will be judged against the other members of the profession, not the general public at large. I often use another example of free advice which was a much more tricky situation. While cutting my lawn a few years ago my neighbour, also tending to his garden, leaned over the fence to ask me about his red eye. Was is an allergic reaction or something more serious? The consequences of getting this one wrong were much more serious. But refusing to give any advice would be rude. I had a look as best I could and told him if it didn't get better he should come and see me in practice the following day. It did get better and he didn't come and see me in practice so it probably was an allergic reaction, but without a slit lamp it was difficult to tell.

Appropriate to the circumstances

Giving 'free advice' is something we all do often but when you do, make sure your advice is appropriate, and that other opticians, in the same situation, would give the same advice. Don't guess or reassure people "it will be OK". That way, if anyone comes to harm by following your advice you can say you did your best in the circumstances.


What advice did I give about the varifocals? The lenses are probably one and the same. And in any case, all varifocals should be fine for someone with a 0.75 add. Go and speak to your optician.......

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About the author

Peter Charlesworth MSc MCOptom

Peter Charlesworth is an optometrist and Chief Executive of CPDpoints.com. He is a former examiner and councillor of the College of Optometrists, a former member of the GOC’s fitness to practise committee and holds an MSc in Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Science from the University of Manchester. He was Boots Opticians Tutor Practitioner at the University of Bradford for 7 years. His duties there included teaching the Law and Management module to final year students and a clinical investigative techniques module to the second year.

View all posts by Peter Charlesworth MSc MCOptom


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