A question was raised recently about out-of-date contact lens banks. Who is responsible for checking them, the practitioner or the practice? An interesting question I thought…
We all agree, I think, that to give out-of-date contact lenses to a patient is unacceptable. As a practitioner you do, as a matter of course, check the lens you are issuing for the design, power, BC, diameter and, of course, the date. But there is always a chance that in haste or distraction, you give a lens that is past its use-by date; this gives a very poor impression to a patient, one that you are careless of their wellbeing but also it is shoddy stock control.
It is unlikely that lenses a month or two past their use by date would do damage but there is always a chance that a leaking seal may well have compromised the sterility of the lens, and so might present a risk to the patient.
It is, therefore, vital that all stocks of contact lenses are regularly checked to ensure the date is within a usable time frame, probably a three-month window of use. Also that the condition of the lens packs is good, with no squashed boxes or stained packaging which, again, give the impression to a patient that they too can be careless with their lenses. It is a thankless task but it has to be done by someone…
Within a large organisation, there will be job allocation in the form of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which should stipulate that the contact lens banks are checked methodically on a scheduled basis discarding old or damaged lens packs. The specifications of the discarded lenses should also be recorded to enable the lenses to be replaced and so the bank kept full and complete.
In smaller companies, there may not be such a SOP but there must be arrangements for the same task to be performed on all contact lens banks.
It is the responsibility of every practitioner within a practice to ensure that this checking is done properly – if not by a member of staff then by themselves; just as it is the responsibility of an optometrist that the Minims and solutions for use in the consulting room are also in date.
It is, of course, a poor use of a clinician’s time to do such a task but if no-one else has been asked to do the check, it should then be carried out by the practitioner to ensure the continuing safety of their patients.
The situation is more difficult for locum practitioners who may well be working in unfamiliar practices on a regular basis. Just as every locum should check the roles and skills of support staff within a new practice, they should also check the contact lens banks for out-of-date lenses. In this way, the practitioner can be confident that all patients are being properly cared for.