Alan and Specsavers vs the DVLA

By:A.C.

The TV advert has become quite well known: “should’ve gone to Specsavers”. 

I always thought that the well –known national chain of Opticians was a large monolithic company.   So it was a surprise to find out that each individual store is a franchise, and that sometimes there are groups of them under a central branding, but with local managers.

Rather like McDonald’s.

Why am I telling you this riveting piece of information? Recently, I had reason to send my observations and feedback about a particular shop in Aberdeen to the main HQ in England.

Diabetes can and does affect one’s eyes, and part of the therapy is to have very accurate, powerful laser treatment to burn the little micro–veins at the back of the eye. The other treatment which I have also had is injections which stop the body making these little veins inside the eye, and thus damaging the Retina. I have on previous occasions given my opinion and advice about DVLA  Medical Reporting on this blog.

Those fateful words from the Doctor who operated the laser, “You need to tell DVLA about having had this procedure” meant that for a time one’s driving licence is in the balance until proper testing using a Hogarth 740i machine, tests the peripheral or frontal vison and ascertains that one is safe to drive.

As I found out, this procedure should be well–oiled, easy to comply with, and done by neutral friendly opticians. Specsavers, at the time of writing, hold the DVLA contract to carry out this test which involves looking at a long series of specks of light appearing in the field of vision and one responds by pressing a button to confirm that one has seen them. The test is designed to avoid people “remembering” any pattern of lights used. Failure to spot those lights in a particular area means simply that your eyes are not seeing in a particular field of view and your vision for driving could be affected. 

When one contacts DVLA Medical Unit, regarding possible eye disorders or impairment, they get in touch electronically with Specsavers and this generates stock template forms, giving advice and instructions on how to contact their stores and make the necessary appointment.

My experience that kick-started some feedback to Specsavers came from what is common nowadays- computers that sometimes do not talk properly to one another and go into a digital huff.  This single glitch in the system, led to me becoming a “non –person”  for one store, which could not find my details or appointment anywhere.

In my feedback to the company’s very energetic General Manger in the Aberdeen area, other matters were discussed that were immediately taken on board, and a forceful  investigation launched to find out why such important information had been apparently parked up in some lonely server at the side of the computer room.

Having made an appointment, it was rather unfortunate when one was standing at the desk of the shop clutching the required forms originally sent by Specsavers needed as proof to the optician, and the computer had no trace of me – anywhere.

Sometimes these computer glitches have no digital explanation and little more can be said, except to monitor such systems when customers arrive for an appointment, and provide internal feedback to trace the gremlin causing grief to Specsavers and its customers. Suffice to say at this time, in the midst of getting the situation normalised, one of my main concerns was the apparent insufficiency of the National Entitlement Card as proof of identity. (What did all we do in the days before computers?  We used a desk appointment diary).

Resulting from this feedback the customer–centred General Manager, was very concerned that such an occurrence should happen.  

To that end I also sent a clear and strong letter to both DVLA Swansea and copied that to Specsavers DVLA Unit which asked for explanations about the non–acceptance of the NEC and other matters relating to the digital generation of the stock form.

Specsavers HQ DVLA Unit, spurred on by the rather tenacious, terrier like attitude of the General Manager for Aberdeen, have managed to secure the promise and acceptance of the Transport Scotland National Entitlement Card (NEC or “the bus pass” ) as photo ID by DVLA who previously would only accept a UK Passport, or other photographic ID in order to undergo this vital  test. In addition, the stock template forms generated by the receipt of the digital information from DVLA Swansea are being redesigned and upgraded, so that the information thereon is clear and concise.

To quote from a recent email from Specsavers General Manager in Aberdeen:

In respect of the National Entitlement card, we have spoken to the DVLA who have now confirmed that this form of ID will be accepted moving forward. We have also discussed the points you raised with regards the wording of the letter.  They have acknowledged that they would like to make it clear and we will work with the DVLA to update the text.” 

It is clear that when one is in contact with customer–services it is better to be clear, concise and simply explain what has happened, and be fair about a complaint.   

The Business and Development General Manager Aberdeen certainly went to great lengths to find out on my behalf why my appointment went awry. She did not find an answer, but she has helped take my concerns about the non–acceptance of the NEC/Bus pass, to the ‘powers that be’ and reinforce my concerns in her representations , and that has resulted in changes in  the way that DVLA demand proof of ID for medical eye tests. 

Remember that most people needing eye–tests for DVLA purposes are over 60 years.  They will most likely be in possession of the NEC.  

The required  ID therefore is not something everyone has–or indeed currently valid, except possibly for the NEC which requires a high level of proof of identity before it is issued and can be used on Scotland’s transport system.

Having subsequently passed the DVLA Medical Eye Test, I have retained my driving licence with no restrictions, and continue to drive with no problem.

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