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The term sight test

Why the AOP uses the term sight test in its public-facing communications

From time to time, members contact us to query why we use the term ‘sight test’ instead of ‘eye examination’ in our public-facing communications. Some feel that the term ‘eye examination’ better reflects the clinical nature of the assessment, and could help to explain to the public that it is more than just a test of vision. 

While we understand why some members may feel this way, the term ‘sight test’ has a very specific meaning in law.   

Opticians Act

Both the General Optical Council (GOC) and the National Health Service (NHS) refer to a sight test in accordance with the Opticians Act 1989. The Opticians Act outlines a set of requirements for the procedure and this can only be carried out by a registered practitioner.

These main requirements, as specified in the Opticians Act, are to:

  1. Conduct an external examination
  2. Conduct an internal examination
  3. Conduct any additional examinations that are clinically necessary
  4. Provide a written statement confirming: 
    • That the examinations above have been carried out
    • Whether the patient is being referred and if so, the reasons for the referral
  5. Provide a signed, written prescription for an optical appliance, or a signed written statement that no optical appliance is required

As such, ‘sight test’ is the legally defined phrase for the work that optometrists routinely do. In Scotland, under their General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) agreement, the NHS has chosen to use the term ‘eye examination’ and as a result, a GOS sight test in Scotland is either a ‘primary eye examination’ or a ‘supplementary eye examination’.  

Eye examination

We have considered the use of ‘eye examination’, to help describe the range of activities conducted by our members, but because this is not reflective of the terminology used by the GOC and NHS we have taken the decision to use ‘sight test’. However, where a patient is not being refracted but having their eye health assessed, we refer to this as an ‘eye examination’ and encourage members to do the same.