Northern Ireland: GOS sight tests drop by a third during pandemic

The latest GOS statistics reveal a 34% decrease in the number of sight tests performed compared to the previous year

optometrist with patient
Pixabay/Paul Diaconu

The latest General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) data from Northern Ireland has illustrated a sharp drop-off in the number of sight tests performed in line with restrictions imposed following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statistics reveal that in 2020–21 around 311,000 GOS sight tests were performed – a 34% decrease compared to 2019–20.

For every four sight tests provided, three were for patients under the age of 16 or aged 60 or over.

During 2020–2021, 141,000 optical vouchers to be used towards the sale of spectacles or contact lenses were processed in Northern Ireland.

Women were more likely to have a sight test than men, with 18% of the female population attending a test during the year compared to 14% of males.

The total cost of primary care ophthalmic services in Northern Ireland was close to £24.4 million – an increase of 3% on the previous year. This equates to £12.80 per head of population.

Across the country, 95% of people live within five miles of an ophthalmic practice.

There were 271 ophthalmic practices in Northern Ireland at the end of March 2021 – a 1% decrease on the previous reporting period.

However, the number of ophthalmic practitioners grew by 10% over the same period.