Preventing visual impairment / Regular eye examinations

Most people should have their eyes tested at least once every two years, but if you have a health condition, such as diabetes, glaucoma or high blood pressure (hypertension), you will probably need to have them tested more regularly. Your optometrist can advise you about how often to have your eyes tested.

It is very important for drivers and people whose eyesight may be affected by their occupation, such as those who use computer monitors, to have regular eye examinations.

Children should also have regular eye examinations. This is because it is very important that visual problems are diagnosed early so that learning and other developmental problems can be prevented.

Free Sight Tests

You qualify for a free NHS-funded sight test if you are:

  • aged under 16, or aged 16 to 18 and in full-time education
  • aged 60 or over
  • registered blind or partially sighted
  • diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma or ocular hypertension (raised pressure inside your eye)
  • aged 40 or over and you are a first-degree relative (your mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter) has been diagnosed with glaucoma, or you have been advised by an ophthalmologist that you are at risk of glaucoma
  • eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher.
  • prescribed complex lenses (lenses with a power of 10 dioptres or more prism controlled bifocal lenses
  • sight tests are usually carried out through a hospital eye department, as part of your care for an existing eye condition
  • You are a war pensioner and you need the sight test because of a disability for which you receive a war pension.

You are also entitled to a free NHS sight test if you:

  • receive Income Support or Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (not contribution based)
  • receive Child Tax Credit and are named on a tax credit NHS exemption certificate
  • Family Credit or Working Disability allowance
  • receive Working Tax Credit and are named on a tax credit NHS exemption certificate
  • receive Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • receive Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
  • are named on a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2)

People named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (HC3) might also get help.

Those who are named on a NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (HC3) may also get help with the cost of their eye test.  When you have your eyes tested, your optometrist will ask to see proof of your entitlement to free or reduced cost NHS tests.

NHS-funded mobile sight tests

An NHS-funded mobile sight test is where an optometrist comes to visit you in your own home or at a day centre.

If you are eligible for an NHS-funded sight test, you may also be entitled to obtain mobile services if you meet one of the criteria listed below:

  • At home
    If you are unable to leave home unaccompanied because of physical or mental illness or disability.
  • At a residential or care home
    If you normally live there and are unable to leave the home unaccompanied because of physical or mental illness or disability.
  • At a day centre
    If you would have difficulty travelling to an optician’s practice because of physical or mental illness or disability or because of difficulties in communicating your health needs unaided.

You will be asked to show proof of your entitlement to free NHS sight tests.

If you do not fall within one of the eligible groups who are entitled to a free NHS sight test, you will need to pay for it privately. The cost of private sight tests can vary at each opticians practice and it is advisable to shop around.

Help with the cost of  spectacles

You may get help with the cost of spectacles or contact lenses if you:

  • are aged under 16, or aged 16 to 18 and in full-time education or,
  • are eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher (your optician will advise on your entitlement)

You may also get an NHS optical voucher if you:

  • receive Income Support or Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (not contribution based)
  • receive Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • receive Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
  • are named on a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2)

People named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (HC3) might also get help.

You will be asked to show proof of your entitlement to NHS optical vouchers.

There are currently eight voucher values. The values are dependent on the strength of your prescription – the higher your prescription the higher your voucher value. If you receive an NHS optical voucher, you are free to take this voucher and redeem it with an optician of your choice. .

Important numbers

Phone 0845 601 8076 for queries about medical exemption certificates.

Other recommendations

There are several other ways to reduce the risk of visual impairment:

  • Protect your eyes from the sun. Ultra violet (UV) rays from the sun can damage your eyesight so in bright sunlight, wear a pair of good-quality sunglasses that protect your eyes from both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Find out whether there is a history of glaucoma or eye disease in your family. Have your eyes tested regularly if you have close relatives who have been diagnosed with glaucoma.

Visit your GP or your optometrist as soon as possible if you experience any changes to your vision or you have pain in or around your eyes.

If you smoke, giving up will significantly reduce your chances of developing problems with your vision. People who smoke are up to three times more likely to develop cataracts than non-smokers due to the chemicals found in cigarette smoke.

You may get help with the cost of spectacles or contact lenses if you:

  • are aged under 16, or aged 16 to 18 and in full-time education or,
  • are eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher (your optician will advise on your entitlement)

You may also get an NHS optical voucher if you:

  • receive Income Support or Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (not contribution based)
  • receive Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • receive Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
  • are named on a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2)

People named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (HC3) might also get help.

You will be asked to show proof of your entitlement to NHS optical vouchers.

There are currently eight voucher values. The values are dependent on the strength of your prescription – the higher your prescription the higher your voucher value. If you receive an NHS optical voucher, you are free to take this voucher and redeem it with an optician of your choice.

From www.nhs.uk

May 2011