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Overseas prescriptions

U2.1.7 Overseas prescriptions (2017)

There have been a couple of queries recently about the advisability of dispensing prescriptions from overseas. It’s the usual question of: “Is it legal?” And the answer, as is so often the case, is: “It depends”.

The nationality of a prescription is immaterial as long as the information is sufficient to dispense the spectacles (or contact lenses) accurately. That information is listed on the Advice and Guidelines section of the ABDO website at 2.8.1, and states:

A prescription provided in fulfilment of the duty imposed by section 24(2) of the Opticians Act shall include:

Particulars of any spherical power of each lens to be included in the appliance prescribed and, where appropriate, particulars of the cylindrical power (including particulars of its axis), prismatic power (including particulars of the orientation of the prism) and near addition of each such lens. (BS No: 2738- 3/91 Part 3). Also note the requirement for a back vertex distance to be included for prescriptions >+/- 5.00D. (BS NO. 2738-3:2004+A1:2008.)

The date of the testing of sight.

The name and address of the patient and, if he/she is under the age of 16, his/her date of birth.

The name and practice address of the prescriber who carried out the testing of sight.

The address at which, or the name of the hospital, clinic, nursing home or other institution at which, the testing of sight was carried out.

If all this information is present, and you are satisfied that it is legible and not open to misinterpretation, there is no reason not to dispense the prescription.

There is another problem that might arise when a prescription is brought in from abroad, however, and that is that the person in front of you is the person named on the prescription. It might sound silly but it has happened to me; I went to measure the PD and the gentleman said no, it was for his mother, but she was only a little smaller than he was.

The problem then is the same as any remote dispensing: can you supply spectacles accurately and to the standard you would wish, without the patient being present? I would argue that you cannot but it is for you to make your own decision about that. There is nothing illegal in that sale, provided the patient is over 16 and not SI or SSI, when I would say that remote dispensing is unprofessional.

It is rather more complicated if it is a contact lens specification that a patient brings in. You would require the same information as you do for a British specification, but often it is worded in a different way. In the USA, for example, they often use dioptre units rather than millimetres on RGP specifications. The important feature is the date of the last check-up, as here, so that the supply does not extend over the date of next check-up.