Which? takes a closer look at laser eye surgery

A Which? undercover investigation finds a third of laser eye surgery consultations are poor quality. 

We sent undercover researchers into 18 laser eye surgery clinics to look at how they were selling the procedure and the quality of advice given at initial consultations. An expert panel assessed that in a third of consultations the potential complications were not clearly explained.​​

Independent clinics, smaller chains and hospital-based providers scored the best, and high street providers came bottom, with Optical Express falling down on every visit when it came to explaining complications.

Good written information was provided at all of the clinics we visited, but not tailored to the individual. As with any surgery, patients need clear verbal information about their personal risks to be able to make a fully informed decision. 

Serious long-term complications are rare but in extreme cases patients can have long-term problems, such as severe dry eyes, so it’s important people are aware of this before they commit. 

We are pleased that as a result of last year’s review into cosmetic surgery led by Sir Bruce Keogh, the Royal College of Surgeons will establish committees to review laser eye surgeon professional standards and information for patients. In the meantime we have given our findings to the Care Quality Commission. 

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: 

“Laser surgery could dramatically improve your vision, but it does carry risks and clinics should be making these clear upfront. Anyone thinking of having the procedure should take time to do thorough research before signing up.”

Visit which.co.uk for free laser eye surgery advice and FAQs. 

Notes to editors: 

1.    Methodology: Our researchers – whose eyes had been tested by us – visited 18 high street clinics in England. Each recorded visit was assessed by our experts. 

2.    Our experts based their own criteria on voluntary standards of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines. Our experts consisted of a consultant ophthalmologist/laser eye surgeon with extensive experience of clinical practice and professional standard setting, an optometrist with extensive experience in both research and clinical aspects of refraction surgery, and an expert consumer lawyer with 15 years’ experience in consumer law.

3.    Breakdown of visits

Optical Express: Good – 0, Satisfactory – 2, Poor – 4

Optimax: Good – 1, Satisfactory – 4, Poor – 0

Independent clinics, smaller chains and hospitals: Good – 4, Satisfactory – 1, Poor – 2​

Press Release