Dr Paramdeep Bilkhu MCOptom
Clinical Adviser, College of Optometrists
Recent research shows that people are avoiding a visit to the optometrist based on the potential costs. However, eye support is available for some.
Our research at the College of Optometrists* showed that 50% of people say that the cost of living will have an impact on how they care for their eyes in the future. A further 22% of people have admitted to postponing or cancelling an appointment in the past year based due to cost.
Eye support through NHS-funded tests
People need to be aware of the ways to access sight tests and necessary eyewear. It’s troubling to know that people’s eye health may be impacted by the cost of living crisis. We urge anyone due a sight test or with any eye problems, such as a change in vision, to prioritise it and contact an optometrist for advice.
Eye tests don’t have to be expensive; some people are entitled to an NHS-funded sight test. However, only 50% of respondents are aware that people under 16 are entitled to them, and only 48% realise that sight tests are funded for those over 60.
Don’t delay eye test appointments
Our research also showed that one in five (21%) are concerned they will have to delay booking sight tests for themselves or their children until they can afford any necessary glasses or lenses. Early detection of eye problems is very important, especially for children. We urge parents not to be put off by cost; even if your child does need glasses, they will be entitled to an NHS optical voucher to help towards the cost.
Early detection of eye problems is
very important, especially for children.
Who can access NHS-funded sight tests
Many people can access an NHS-funded sight test. While access is universal in Scotland, eligibility varies across the rest of the UK, so contact your local optometrist for more information. In general, you are entitled to an NHS-funded sight test if you are:
- Aged under 16 or aged between 16 and 18 and in full-time education
- Aged 60 or over
- Diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma
- Aged 40 or over and have a first-degree relative with glaucoma
- Deemed at risk of developing glaucoma
- Registered blind or partially sighted
- Have a complex lens prescription
- On certain benefits or low income
Emergency eye concerns
Even if you are not due for a sight test but have eye health concerns, such as a sudden red eye, many practices offer an NHS-funded emergency eye service where you can get diagnosed and treated quickly. Contact an optometrist right away if you experience worrying symptoms.
*Research conducted by Atomik Research on behalf of The College of Optometrists in May 2023