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Was I right to refuse to give out PDs?

U2.4.2 “I’ve been asked twice this week for PDs, was I right to refuse?” (2010)

There has been lots of coverage recently in the media about a patient’s ‘right’ to obtain their PD, to enable them to purchase their spectacles online and this has put a lot of pressure on DOs; you are not alone. As always with questions of professional conduct there are different ways of looking at the problem. The law is very simple; a PD is not part of a spectacle prescription. It is not usually recorded on the clinical record and certainly not included on a spectacle prescription form, be it NHS or private.

If a patient, new to your practice, requests their PD you can in all honesty say you do not have that measurement on file. If you wish to be helpful, and it is your choice, you may offer to measure their PD and charge them a fee for such a service. What might you charge? This is up to you as there is no suggested fee but remember, if the spectacles subsequently made up to your measurement give problems, and if it can be shown that you made an error, you could be sued. So, the fee has to be worth that risk.

If the patient requesting their PD is an existing patient of your practice, it is a slightly more difficult situation. You do of course have the information they want on file and they do have the right to a copy of their records (with certain legal hoops to jump through). How should you answer such a request? Always politely; you can use the form of words on the ABDO website, to explain why you cannot give them what they require. If a legal whiz kid pushes you to disclosure, always give in gracefully. Such patients are best left to sort their own problems out; you cannot help them all.

It is still a small proportion of patients who wish to buy online, so it is wise not to get the problem out of perspective. Treat patients courteously, explain the problems that remote sales bring and help if it is appropriate – but learn that not everyone understands the worth of a good dispensing.

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