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Home » Vision & eye health » Where to access support while waiting to see an optometrist

Louise Gow

Clinical Lead for Eye Health, Optometry and Low Vision Service, RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People)

More than 1 million people were referred to an eye specialist from January to June 2023, and the average waiting time in England for a first outpatient ophthalmology appointment is 8.1 weeks.

Any amount of time waiting to see an eye specialist can be a difficult period. You may have questions about what will happen at your appointment or about your potential eye condition, and it’s difficult to know where to turn. Everyone’s experience is different; your journey and needs are unique. Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is here to support you at every step.

Early detection of eye concerns

If you’re worried about any aspect of your eyesight and haven’t already seen an optometrist (often called ‘optician’), it’s important that you do. It’s the best way to check if your eyes are healthy and detect any problems early so that you can get any treatment you may need. On many occasions, nothing of concern is found, and you can be quickly reassured. At least 50% of sight loss can be avoided if eye conditions are detected early.

Everyone should have a routine eye test at least every two years. Particularly as you get older, you might need to get your eyes checked more often — or if you have other factors that put you at increased risk of developing a particular eye condition.

Help while you wait for an appointment

If your optometrist thinks there may be a problem with your eyes that needs more investigation or possibly treatment, they’ll refer you to the right person: a specialist optometrist, hospital eye clinic or your GP. When you are waiting for a possible diagnosis, the sense of not knowing can impact many areas of your life: employment; going out; social activities. This National Eye Health Week (18–24 September), RNIB has put together a set of resources to help anyone waiting for a possible diagnosis.

Everyone should have a routine eye test at least every two years.

No one should go through an eye condition diagnosis without support, so RNIB has created resources bringing together information about services, emotional support and practical advice for attending hospital appointments and staying independent to help give you confidence as you wait.

Worried about your eyes?

Diagnosis can be an emotional experience. It often leaves people feeling confused, overwhelmed and anxious about what comes next. Waiting isn’t easy; but by reaching people as early as possible in their sight loss journey, they can be empowered with information and support to wait well.

For help while you wait:

– Call the RNIB helpline on 0303 123 9999

– Email [email protected]

– Or visit

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