A frequent query received at the Membership Department is about giving out prescriptions. There are various types of query, from who can write a duplicate prescription to what should be included.
At the completion of a sight test, the optometrist or doctor has a legal duty to give a copy of their findings in the form of a written prescription. There is one small exception: if a referral is made to the Hospital Eye Service, or indeed privately to an ophthalmologist, then no prescription need be issued. Obviously, if there is treatment to be carried out the prescription may well alter.
The College of Optometrists lays down specifically what information should be included on such a prescription; a vertex distance if the power is over + or – 5.00D, for example. It should include the recommended recall date, the name and qualifications of the prescriber and the address where the examination took place.
Many practices have a computer system, which automatically prints such documents enabling the prescriber to give the patient the details they are legally required to with minimum fuss. But what happens when a patient loses their copy?
This is quite a delicate issue and staff need careful training in how to handle such requests. It doesn’t help when the request is because the patient wishes to have spectacles made up elsewhere or online; this may feel like a very personal insult but it is important to hide such feelings.
If the computer system will allow the document to be reprinted that may be fine – but whoever is issuing the document must ensure that it is complete and accurate, possibly marked as a duplicate for clarity.
If the prescription has to be hand written, extra care must be taken that the information is as complete and accurate as the original and signed by the person who originally issued the document where possible. If that is not possible for valid reasons, the dispensing optician or competent staff member may do so with great care.
ABDO recommends a form of words, indeed a form is available to download (appendix J in the documents section of A&G), to be sure that no errors are made in copying the information. A qualified dispensing optician is in a better position to know if there is a potential problem and confirm with the prescriber what is correct.
If an error is made, the patient has grounds to complain and indeed take legal action against the practice which issued the duplicate prescription incorrectly. If you are 110 per cent sure that the original prescription was issued as it should have been, a reasonable change can be made for the administrative work of supplying a duplicate document.