NHS’s 75th ANNIVERSARY TO CELEBRATE SPEC-CARE SERVICES
The NHS’s 75th anniversary next year will celebrate Spec-Care, the lab dedicated to the trickiest dispensing which has quietly become one of the most respected companies in UK optics.
The independent Exeter lab is being cited as an outstanding micro-business which supports the health service, thanks to its founder Rob Barrow, FBDO SMC Tech.
The OPTICIAN Award-winning Technology Supplier of the Year has been singled out for praise, much to the delight of Rob –
“I had a surprise call from the representatives of the Parliamentary Trust saying that my name keeps coming up in the specialist supply chain and would I like to be represented as a micro-business for the NHS 75th anniversary in March? Of course, I accepted: it will be a great celebration in Westminster Cathedral and we’re honoured to be taking part.”
Rob, 46, says the accolades are a tribute to mark 20 years in business –
“We are having an incredible time – I have recently been appointed Chairman of the Optical Suppliers’ Association (OSA) Frame Focus Group, and have progressed from being a Freeman to a Liveryman of the Spectacle Makers.”
Spec-Care – which was bought as an on-going business – has a sentimental heritage for Rob –
“I’ve worn glasses since I was a baby, and as a child my specs needed repairing more often than I would like to say. My parents took my glasses to a local optician, who sent them to Spec-Care to be repaired. I’m proud to say that Jo Holmes, ABDO immediate past-president, was the Dispensing Optician providing my care at Pilgrim Opticians in Tiverton.”
Amusingly, Rob’s journey in optics started by him taking the place of his brother at a Specsavers technician interview in Devon –
“He decided he didn’t want to go, so I took the appointment as interview practice, but got the job.”
Keen to learn more while working at the Tiverton branch of Specsavers, Rob studied for the gold standard SMC Tech Level 4 exams, presented to him in 1992 by industry stalwart, and then Master of the Spectacle Makers, Frank Norville OBE.
Dispensing Opticians’ training followed while Rob was working for the Outside Clinic, and then the bold step of buying Spec-Care –
“Today, as well as routine repairs, we work closely with leading hospital eye departments, but particularly with Great Ormond Street. We can solve many problems with 3D design, producing specs for children with heavy facial asymmetry, and sometimes no ears. Hearing aids are often incorporated into the design with 3D printed clips. Our technology makes a real difference to many lives.
”Lee, my workshop manager, and the team, are some of the only people in the UK who are familiar with this work – borne out by the orders we receive from Nigeria, Chile, Costa Rica, the US and Taiwan, to name a few.”
Laser welding is routine work for the team – along with the apprentices employed from Exeter College and Exeter University –
“Bringing high technology to the repair sector, laser welding is not just for repairing titanium, but for most metals. The micro-pulse, or beam, is contained within an inert gas, which reduces the oxidation of the repaired area. In many cases this reduces the need for post repair finishing of the breakage, saving resources including finishing products and time.”
Rob is keen to ensure that Spec-Care is as sustainable as possible with a ‘repair, re-use and recycle’ mantra and a 90% recycle policy for all last-use products. Responsibly sourced local packaging has been plastic-free since the beginning of 2022, with returns carefully wrapped in tissue paper. The recent installation of a void-fill unit transforms card set for recycling into soft packaging.
“Our young apprentices are inspired by our approach and begin their careers with our guidance. Just a little time from us, investing in their future, brings success. Our apprentices are keen, sharp and on track for exceptional careers: Their success is my reward.”
Equally rewarding is Rob’s role with the OSA –
“It is great to get networking back – we really missed it during Covid, and I am keen to see OSA really working well for the members. As a small business the functions and benefits which the OSA provides, plus the terrific pool of expertise, is very valued.”