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NHS eye care services: visiting an optician

When you visit an optician for an eye test, you'll be examined by an ophthalmic practitioner or optometrist who is trained to recognise abnormalities and conditions such as cataracts or glaucoma. Ophthalmic practitioners will prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses, and, if necessary, they will refer you to a GP or a hospital eye clinic for further investigations. Sometimes you'll be referred to a specialist optometrist for a referral refinement.

How often should I have an eye test?

Our eyes rarely hurt when something is wrong with them, so having regular eye tests is important to help detect potentially harmful conditions.  The NHS recommends that you should get your eyes tested every two years (more often if advised by your ophthalmic practitioner or optometrist).

An NHS sight (eye) test is free of charge if you are in one of the eligible groups and your sight test is considered clinically necessary. If the ophthalmic practitioner can't see a clinical need then you'll have to pay for the test privately.

What happens after the eye test?

Following an eye test, your ophthalmic practitioner is legally required to provide you with your optical prescription or a statement setting out that you have been referred for further tests.

An NHS optical voucher will also be issued immediately if you can prove you are entitled to one. There are currently 10 voucher values. The values are dependent on the strength of your prescription. The stronger your prescription, the higher the value your voucher will be. 

You should never feel obliged to purchase glasses or redeem an optical voucher from the premises where you had your eye test. Shop around for the best value and only purchase glasses or contact lenses when you are happy with the product and cost.