Independent Scottish optician stays open during lockdown to serve the community and help key NHS workers

A family of dedicated eye health professionals have stayed at their posts throughout the COVID-19 crisis not only to serve their West Dunbartonshire community but also to help key NHS workers carry on the fight against the virus. 

Independent family-owned optician Wilkie & Rider, which has two outlets in Alexandria and Dumbarton, has been one of the few firms of eyecare specialists which has kept its doors open over the course of the pandemic.

Although all but three of the firm’s staff have been furloughed, the family – founder William Wilkie’s son, also William, and his children Sian and Willis – have made sure that both practices have been available at regular hours since the lockdown began in March. While the team has been unable to perform eye tests or eyecare procedures because of operate-at-distance protocols, it has been able to triage patients by telephone, repair spectacle frames, provide replacements, make deliveries, and institute emergency referrals.

Sian Wilkie said: “The firm has been serving this community since my grandfather’s day in 1956, and we wanted to ensure that we were here for all the local people in these unprecedented times”.

The West Dunbartonshire service has been a lifesaver for front line NHS staff, providing supplies of contact lenses and repairing broken spectacles. Local man Adam Cairns posted the following tribute on Wilkie & Rider’s Facebook page:

“These guys helped my mum out by fixing the glasses she needs for work. She is a nurse in the NHS and wouldn’t have been able to do her job if they hadn’t been there to help. And they wouldn’t take any money for the repair! Class act.”

The firm is now set to re-open its doors to the general public next Monday, 29 June at 9.00am. Patients will be able to be seen face to face for emergency and essential eye issues only.

Ms Wilkie added: “One of our priorities has been to take some of the pressure off the NHS and we are continuing to try to do that as much as possible. We also want to make sure that our staff are looked after and that any clients who enter the shops stay safe. We will increase the range of our services as quickly as possible and we have made provision for all the appropriate PPE equipment we will need, including masks, aprons and visors. We want to be back serving West Dunbartonshire fully just as soon as we can.”

Before the lockdown began, Wilkie & Rider carried out a £100,000 refurbishment of its Alexandria practice which included a £20,000 investment in a new state-of-the-art Visioffice 2 digital scanning system.

The firm’s jewellery business, which supplies fashion and fine jewellery as well as gifts and watch repairs will be available from Monday 29th June too, with appropriate social distancing and safety measures in place.

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