Mirfield-based optometrist Paul Ratcliffe has won the COVID Hero award at the industry’s prestigious Optician Awards 2021.

Paul, who works for leading domiciliary eye and hearing care provider OutsideClinic, received the award in recognition of his efforts to keep patients and colleagues safe during the pandemic.

When the spread of COVID-19 led to the suspension of routine appointments last year, Paul was determined to do something to ensure the company’s team of clinicians, who deliver more than 100,000 appointments each year in patients’ homes, were able to continue delivering gold standard eye care.

His efforts saw him create and develop a custom Breath Shield, an innovative device that offers an extra layer of protection to both the optician and patient, while allowing the clinician to still use the vital technical equipment required to conduct a high-quality eye test.

Since its introduction, the Breath Shield has made a huge difference to the company’s clinicians operating across the UK - and its impact hasn’t stopped there. OutsideClinic has worked closely with Paul to share it more widely with other businesses in the sector, at zero cost to those companies, in order that they too can keep their patients and staff safe during these challenging times.

On winning the Covid Hero Award, Paul said: “I feel honored and proud to win this award.

“The pandemic created extra challenges when it came to delivering top quality care to our patients, the vast majority of whom are elderly and in the most vulnerable demographic of society.

“I’d like to thank OutsideClinic in helping to distribute the breath shield among the wider industry, supporting the sector in its efforts to keep patients and practitioners safe.”

Congratulating Paul, fellow optometrist and director of professional services, Nick Wingate, said: “Our people are the difference when it comes to us delivering extraordinary care to thousands of patients each week - and there’s no better example of this than Paul!

“When you consider the impact that his invention has had on the industry, his achievements are nothing short of incredible.

“He inspired so many of us with his relentless efforts to turn it into a reality, and our practitioners and thousands of patients have benefited as a result, making him a truly deserving winner of this new award.”

The news of Paul’s award follows a huge surge in demand for the company's services, with OutsideClinic recently launching its biggest ever recruitment campaign to find optometrists all over the UK, including in West Yorkshire.