A GALASHIELS optician has assessed patients through his store window in an effort to obey lockdown guidelines.

Iain McFadyen, director of the Specsavers at Douglas Bridge, said his team has adapted surprisingly well to new ways of treating customers.

Window-related antics aside, Mr McFayden says the most effective method is video calling.

He said: "I’ve been surprised at how well it works, examining an eye over a video stream.”

On those occasions when people have turned up at the door, however, Mr McFadyen has been forced to get creative.

He said: “We’ve found the best way of looking in their eye is to put them on speakerphone – they are obviously still outside the shop – and we have a look at their eyes through the window, and then direct them accordingly.

“We’ve had a few of them, because it’s hayfever season – people wanting advice about red, sore eyes.

"So we occasionally get people just turning up, but our advice is to phone ahead."

When a customer calls the store, they are sent a text with a link taking them to a virtual waiting room.

They are then joined by an optician and connected via video call.

“It’s using people’s phone cameras, and everyone’s phones are so good these days, the resolution’s high enough,” said Mr McFadyen.

“Most red eyes have distinct features and usually with a video call you can see the details of which kind of red eye it is – an infection or an injury or a little bleed.

“Sometimes it’s a case of advising them to go and get some eye drops from the pharmacy, but if it’s something that’s going to require a face-to-face interaction we’ll refer them to the Borders General Hospital Eye Centre.

“We’re the frontline shield system – right now, if everyone with a sore eye was to go to the hospital, it would be overwhelmed, whereas a lot of these things can be solved over a phone or over a video and sometimes it’s just a case of a little bit of advice, like which eye drop they should be picking up.”

In addition to the RemoteCare video service, the store’s optical assistant, Danielle Patterson, is visiting vulnerable customers’ homes to deliver contact lenses and hearing aid batteries, and mend broken glasses.

“We don’t want people who are vulnerable coming to the store,” said Mr McFadyen.

“Sometimes if it’s broken glasses, which we know is a five-minute repair, Danielle can use her car as a ‘glasses repair ambulance’!

"She uses the equipment from the shop, loads up her car, and drives out to do repairs on glasses in front gardens and on doorsteps.”

Mr McFadyen, who has worked in the Gala store for six years, says both his staff and the patients themselves have adapted well to the new check-up system.

“It’s been quite a learning curve. At the start of using RemoteCare we were nervous, but it’s been surprisingly efficient and I’ve been very impressed by the video system.

“I’ve also been impressed by how the customers have adapted to using the video, when I need them to pull up an eyelid or do a little test. This is a great way to help people.”

For essential and emergency eye care assistance, you can call the store.