Award winning optometrist celebrates 35 years in business

Michael Offord celebrates 35 years in business with his staff. Picture by Laura Pearman.
Michael Offord celebrates 35 years in business with his staff. Picture by Laura Pearman.

An optometrist from Whitley Bay has been celebrating a special milestone with staff and patients.

Michael Offord marked 35 years of delivering eye care at his independent practice in Kingston Park, in Newcastle, with a special day-long event.

Guest of honour Elsie Wearn, who was the first patient at the practice when it opened its doors on September 1, 1981, cut the celebration cake.

Michael, who took the leap to open Michael Offord Optometrists at Kingston Park Shopping Centre after qualifying as an optometrist in 1973, said: “Shopping centres were a new concept back in 1981 and Kingston Park was one of the first.

“I liked the idea of everything being in one place so decided this was the was the place to be and truly haven’t looked back.”

The business moved to bigger premises in the new Kingston Park retail centre in 2010 while the team has grown to 13.

In 2011, Michael was named UK Optometrist of the Year in the prestigious Association of Optical Practitioners awards.

Michael spends one day a week in the Optometry and Eye Casualty Department at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary while also volunteers with Vision Aid Overseas, visiting Ethiopia this year

Michael, who has been a Vision Aid volunteer for 16 years, said: “Giving someone back their sight with properly dispensed spectacles means they are able to earn a living, support their family and regain their dignity.”

“I feel very fortunate to be part of a team that can help people in this way.”

Michael’s practice was one of the first in Newcastle to have an OCT (Ocular Coherence Tomographer) scanner which gives the optometrist a 3D scan of what’s going at the back of the eye and can detect serious conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes and macular degeneration.

He said: “The world of optometry has changed almost beyond recognition since we first opened here in Kingston Park, not least with the changes in technology which have improved the accuracy of eye examinations and dispensing and also made it possible to diagnose the early signs of diseases such as glaucoma and diabetes, enabling more timely treatment.”

Michael is committed to investing in his growing workforce and encourages his team to train continually as part of their personal development.

Alex Wilson joined the practice as a Saturday girl 11 years ago and is now a fully qualified optometrist, and her colleague Vicki Brydon, who started as an optical assistant, subsequently trained to be a dispensing optician. Both were mentored all the way by Michael.

Alex said: “Michael has been a true inspiration. He supports his staff 100% and I would not be where I am today without his help and encouragement.”

Speaking of his 35 years, Michael said: “It’s been hard work but I’ve loved every minute and made some very special friends.

“The people of Kingston Park are lovely. It’s like having a huge extended family and I’d like to thank them for welcoming me in 1981 and the loyalty and kindness they have shown me and my team ever since.”