Health Service sight testing fee to increase 4.5% in Northern Ireland

A 2022–23 uplift for General Ophthalmic Services will also see domiciliary visiting fees, training allowance and voucher values increase

Pexels/Pavel Danilyuk

Sight testing fees and optical voucher values will increase in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health Northern Ireland has shared.

The AOP expressed disappointment that the uplift will not be in line with inflation, but paid tribute to the work of colleagues in Northern Ireland in securing improved funding.

A letter to Northern Ireland ophthalmic contractors confirmed that work is underway to implement a 2022–23 pay uplift for General Ophthalmic Services, agreed by former Minister Robin Swann MLA.

This includes a 4.5% increase on Health Service sight testing fees and domiciliary visiting fees, with effect from 1 April 2022, along with a 2% increase in optical vouchers.

Continuing education and training (CET) allowances for optometrists and ophthalmic medical professionals will increase 4.5% for training undertaken in the year to 31 December 2022.

The change to the sight testing fees and CET allowance will require a legal Determination to be made by the Department, which be completed within the next few weeks, with back payments processed by the Business Services Organisation.

The increase to voucher values requires an amendment to regulations.

The letter notes that this is complicated by the absence of a minister and functioning Assembly, but that efforts are ongoing to make the regulations in this absence, using powers within the Executive Formation Act (2022), with a further update to be provided once clarification has been received regarding the use of those powers.

Responding to the news, Adam Sampson, AOP chief executive, said: “We’re disappointed that practitioners in Northern Ireland will not receive an uplift in line with inflation. That said, a 4.5% increase is more than we’ve received in recent years and, in such tough economic times, this demonstrates to us that there is growing recognition for the vital role optometry provides.”

Sampson continued: “We pay tribute to the dedication of our colleagues in Northern Ireland who have fought hard to secure improved funding so the people of Northern Ireland have ready access to high quality eye care.”

For more information, read see the update on the AOP website.