Sanderstead optometrist prepares to celebrate 30 years in business
WHEN Heather Bailey decided to go to university she received a clear message from her father – you can only go if you take a course leading to a qualification.
It was parental advice which has worked out well for Mrs Bailey as she prepares to celebrate 30 years running her optometrist practice in Limpsfield Road, Sanderstead.
She explained: "My father insisted I took a degree with a qualification and that left me with a choice of going into medicine, dentistry, chiropody or optics.
"As I wore contact lenses and glasses I chose to train as an optometrist. I decided eyes were preferable to the whole body."
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The three-year university course was followed by a year's practical work in 1976, coincidentally at the practice she was to take over seven years later.
At the time the practice was a small adjunct to a neighbouring chemist's shop and she worked for the owner, Christopher Gordon between 1976 and 1983 when he decided to sell her the practice.
During the following years her business was established and when in 1999 the chemist's became vacant, she took it over and expanded the practice.
Mrs Bailey now employs a second part-time optometrist to examine eyes and supply contact lenses and she is supported by two dispensing opticians and three part-time receptionists.
Her skills can also play a vital role in picking up potential future eye defects and using specialised equipment, she can also spot early signs of other problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
Ensuring she keeps the practice up to date, she has recently installed new scanning equipment which provides a 3D image of the eye, making diagnosis of problems more efficient.
Over the years there has been increasing competition from chain practices but Mrs Bailey says they have had little impact on her business.
She said: "I think our clients appreciate the service we give because they are able to see the same person each time they come and that is important.
"I believe we also offer better quality and a better service. We have whole families coming here from different generations, so we must be doing something right."
Now aged 58, Mrs Bailey said she was beginning to look towards retirement, gradually reducing the days per week she works.
But that does not mean a running down of the service and she is cementing the future by working closely with one of her dispensing opticians, Linda Gilbert, who is preparing to buy into the business.