This was the apparently innocent question asked recently. Of course the answer is, as to all questions in life, it depends.
At the completion of an eye examination the optometrist, or doctor, must issue a copy of the prescription. It is the law; it doesn’t matter if the eye examination was NHS or private (or ‘free’ with the purchase of spectacles). It doesn’t even matter if there isn’t a prescription to give because a statement that no prescription is needed must be issued.
The only exception is if the patient is referred to hospital or a medical practitioner, then the test has probably not been completed and no prescription need be issued.
Many practices have complicated systems for issuing the document, often requiring many confirmations on the screen. The information is then printed and given to the patient, with or without further information. If every patient is given a copy of their prescription, why is there a need for a further copy?
I think, in many cases, the patient doesn’t know what they’re asking for. For many different, some genuine, reasons your patient needs this information and to help them you need to be able to comply.
I advise that you ask, as politely as possible, what the reason is for needing a further copy of the document. You will be amazed at the variety of answers. When you know why, you can help.
It might be that you can email their doctor with more details from the eye examination; the prescription alone without acuities is not always helpful. It might be that the patient wishes to buy their spectacles online and can’t be bothered to hunt for the original. In this case, you can explain that a duplicate copy of the prescription issued on the day of the eye examination will take 48 hours to process and that a fee is payable.
You have to be 110 per cent sure that the patient was given their copy of the prescription on the day. We all know that people sometimes leave their valuable prescription on the chair next to where they were waiting. What should you do then? Post it to them? Possibly. Keep it on file in case they return? Also sensible. That piece of paper is the patient’s property and you have a duty to keep it safe until they return for it.
Should you, as a DO, give the patient a copy as they’ve requested? Or does it have to be the original optometrist who conducted the eye examination? Now that is the question.
If the prescription is unsigned, it is up to the person who is dispensing it to accept the document or not. It’s the flick of a button for the computer to print off a duplicate, then you can pp it and job done; but is it legal?
It is ABDO’s advice that if you wish to give a duplicate prescription, you use the form recommended and closely follow the advice give in the Advice and Guidelines section of the ABDO website.
If this is followed accurately, you are indeed acting legally and should there be a query in the future, your records would show exactly what was done and that you had acted in a professional manner.