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NHS sight test eligibility

Find out if you're eligible for an NHS-funded sight test, whether you're in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland

Eligibility for NHS-funded sight tests in the UK, varies depending on which country you live in.

Please click below on the country where you live to take you to the relevant information.

How often should I have a sight test?

The AOP recommends getting your sight tested every two years, or more often if your optometrist recommends it.

What if I'm not entitled to an NHS-funded eye test?

If you don't qualify for an NHS-funded sight test, you will have to pay for a private sight test, the cost of which will vary.

England

Much of the following information is taking from the NHS Choices website. We recommend checking the NHS Choices website to make sure the information is current and correct.

National Health Service (NHS)-funded sight tests in England - who is eligible?

In England, you qualify for an NHS-funded sight test if:

  • You're aged under 16
  • You're aged 16, 17 or 18 and are in full-time education
  • You're aged 60 or over
  • You're registered as partially sighted (sight impaired) or blind (severely sight impaired)
  • You've been diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma
  • You're 40 or over and your mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter has been diagnosed with glaucoma
  • You've been advised by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) that you're at risk of glaucoma
  • You're a prisoner on leave from prison
  • You're eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher – your optometrist can advise you about your entitlement

You're also entitled to an NHS sight test if you:

  • Receive Income Support
  • Receive Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (not contribution-based)
  • Receive Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Receive income-based Employment and Support Allowance 
  • Are awarded Universal Credit and meet the criteria on earnings limit
  • Are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
  • You 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) may also get help.

NHS-funded mobile eye tests

If you qualify for an NHS-funded sight test, you may be entitled to NHS-funded mobile services where the ophthalmic practitioner comes to visit you:

  • At home – if you're 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 you're unable to leave the home unaccompanied because of physical or mental illness or disability
  • At a day centre – if you would have difficulty getting a sight test from an optometrist at their practice because of physical or mental illness or disability, or because you have difficulty communicating your health needs without help

Contact your usual optometrist to find out if they can visit you at home.

Proving your entitlement to a free NHS eye test

When you go for your sight test, tell your ophthalmic practitioner that you're entitled to an NHS-funded sight test. They will give you a form called GOS1 to fill in and sign.

You may be asked to show proof that you're entitled to a free NHS sight test. For more information, see the NHS leaflet, Help with health costs (PDF, 104kb).

Northern Ireland

Much of the following information is taking from the NI Direct Government Services website. We recommend checking the NHS inform website to make sure the information is current and correct.

Health Service-funded sight tests in Northern Ireland - who is eligible?

In Northern Ireland, you are entitled to free Health Service (HS) sight tests if you:

  • Are aged 60 or over
  • Are a diagnosed glaucoma patient, or considered to be at risk of glaucoma (according to an ophthalmologist)
  • Aged 40 or over and with a parent, brother, sister, son or daughter diagnosed with glaucoma
  • Are diagnosed as diabetic
  • Are registered blind or partially sighted
  • Are eligible for an HS Complex Lens Voucher
  • Receive, or your partner receives, Pension Credit Guarantee Credit (the 'guarantee credit element')
  • Are on Income Support, or Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, or Income Based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Have a valid HS tax credit exemption certificate
  • Have made an HS Low Income scheme claim and have a valid HS exemption certificate (HC2 or HC3)
  • Are a war pensioner and need the sight test because of a disability for which you get a war pension

You may also get a voucher towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses if you:

  • Receive, or your partner receives, Pension Credit Guarantee Credit (the 'guarantee credit' element)
  • Are on Income Support, or Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, or Income Based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Have a valid HS tax credit exemption certificate or have a valid HS exemption certificate (HC2 or HC3)
  • Are prescribed complex lenses.

Help if you are on a low income

If you are on a low income, you may be able to get help with health costs by making a claim under the HS Low Income scheme. The amount of help you get will depend on the amount of income you have.

To apply for help, you'll need to complete form HC1, which is available from some hospitals and Jobcentres.

Scotland

Much of the following information is taking from the Scottish NHS inform website. We recommend checking the NHS inform website to make sure the information is current and correct.

National Health Service (NHS)-funded eye examinations in Scotland - who is eligible?

In Scotland, you can benefit from an NHS-funded eye examinations if you ordinarily reside in the UK, or you belong to one of the categories of exemption from NHS charges, as set out in the NHS (Charges to Overseas Visitors) (Scotland) Regulations 1989.

If you are 16 years of age and over and under 60 years of age, you can claim a primary eye examinations in Scotland every two years. However, if you fall into one of the following categories, you can claim an eye examination every year:

  • You are under 16 years of age
  • You are 60 years of age or over
  • You have glaucoma
  • You are 40 years of age and over and have a close family history of glaucoma
  • You have ocular hypertension
  • You have diabetes

NHS optical voucher

A NHS optical voucher helps towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses.

You can get a voucher in Scotland if you:

  • Are under 16 years of age
  • Are in full time education and aged 16, 17 or 18
  • Need complex lenses
  • Are entitled to, or named on a valid NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate
  • Are named on a valid HC2 certificate
  • Your partner gets Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance or Pension Credit Guarantee Credit - Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance don't count as they're not income related

Partial help

If you're named on a valid HC3 certificate you might get some help.

If you're a war pensioner, you may be entitled to help for the cost of your glasses or contact lenses if the treatment is for your pensionable disablement.

Wales

Much of the following information is taking from the Eye Care Wales Services website. We recommend checking the Eye Care Wales Services website to make sure the information is current and correct.

National Health Service (NHS)-funded eye tests in Wales - who is eligible?

In Wales, you qualify for an NHS-funded eye test if:

  • You’re aged under 16
  • You’re aged 16, 17 or 18 and are in full-time education
  • You’re aged 60 or over
  • You’re registered as partially sighted (sight impaired) or blind (severely sight impaired)
  • You’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma
  • You’ve been advised by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) that you’re at risk of glaucoma
  • You’re on certain benefits (Income Support, Income related Employment and Support Allowance, Tax Credit, Income Based Jobseekers Allowance)
  • If you are on a low income, you may be able to get help with the cost of sight tests, glasses and contact lenses through the NHS Low Income Scheme.  

 If you reside in Wales, most optometrists can also offer an NHS-funded eye test if:

  • You have an eye problem that needs urgent attention
  • You have sight in one eye only
  • You’re registered as sight impaired
  • You have a hearing impairment and are profoundly deaf
  • You suffer from retinitis pigmentosa
  • You are of Black or Asian ethnicity
  • You are at risk of eye disease because you are the genetic father, mother, sibling or child of someone with an eye disease that can be inherited, such as glaucoma, diabetes mellitus, age related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa
  • Your GP has referred you because they think you may have an eye problem