Millions make do with poor vision due to cost of living crisis
- Two-thirds (62%) who wear glasses or contact lenses say they are currently “putting off going to the opticians” due to the cost of living crisis
- 36% are wearing out of date prescriptions and 19% use glasses they have had to self-repair
- Almost a third (31%) even wear friends’ and family’s eyewear to avoid spending money
- Seven in 10 optometrists have seen a patient in the last three months who needed vision correction but took no action because they couldn’t afford to
- A rise in the NHS optical voucher value is essential to support those living with poor vision
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is warning that eye health in the UK is set to be another casualty of the cost of living crisis, as the public are forced to choose whether to spend money on their sight or feeding their children. The AOP is calling for an increase to the NHS optical voucher to assist those most in need to access proper eye care.
A public poll of over 1000 people carried out in October reveals the impact of the cost of living crisis on people’s day-to-day vision, with many wearing out-of-date prescriptions and “making do” with taped together glasses.
Two-fifths (36%) across all ages are wearing out-of-date prescriptions and a fifth (19%) use broken glasses they have had to self-repair. Almost a third (31%) even say they wear friends’ and family’s eyewear to avoid spending money on their own.
Participants also described the difficulties they face carrying out basic everyday tasks such as driving, doing their job, reading and watching TV. Quotes from the poll include:
- “Although my sight is very important, so is feeding my children”
- “At the moment I have a pair of reading glasses from the pound shop, because I don't have any spare money to get an eye test and new glasses. I know that they are not correct for my vision, and I have to strain my eyes to read properly”
- “[I have] eye strain and headaches, and need new glasses but don’t have the money”
- “[I have] been struggling to focus for a few months but can’t afford new specs”
- “[I] Can’t afford to go for a test or get up to date prescription so am living with an out of date prescription which I fear will damage my eyes long term”
Supporting the AOP’s concerns, a survey of 876 optometrists shows seven in 10 in the profession have seen a patient in the last three months who needed vision correction but took no action because they couldn’t afford to.
Meanwhile, the public poll reveals a fifth (18%) did not know if they were eligible for a NHS sight test and voucher towards the costs of glasses. Three-quarters (77%) of optometrists surveyed say increasing the value of NHS optical vouchers would encourage patients to seek the eye care they need.
Adam Sampson, Chief Executive of the AOP, says: “It’s of deep concern that people are being forced to make decent vision an optional “extra”.
“The stories to come out of this research are truly shocking and it’s imperative that action is taken now to minimise the long-term damage to people’s eyesight.”
“Help is available to those who need it but the NHS optical voucher is out of step with inflation – and like many essentials, people are being forced to go without.
“A simple yet effective way of ensuring people get the vital eye health checks they need and we don’t hit an eye health crisis later down the line is increasing the NHS voucher now to help people offset against rising costs. Doing nothing quite literally risks the vision of the nation and may end up costing much more.
“We are calling for a 12.5% increase to the NHS voucher value in England, equating to just £5 per voucher for most, so patients in financial hardship and in the most need can access proper eye care.”
More information on the importance of regular sight tests and NHS funded eye care is available at: www.aop.org.uk/costofliving
For more information or interviews please contact edible group on 020 7126 7100 or email [email protected]
Association of Optometrists
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support over 82% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. For more information, visit www.aop.org.uk
About the research
Research was carried out online among 1,002 people in the UK who either require vision correction (852 respondents), believe they require vision correction (120), or are responsible for a family member who requires vision correction (30). Those who were responsible for a family member answered on their family member’s behalf. The fieldwork took place in October 2022 and adhered to MRS guidelines.
The Voice of Optometry panel, set up by the AOP in 2017, provides research from the optometry sector. 876 practising optometrists completed the online survey in September 2022.
NHS sight test and optical vouchers
The NHS optical voucher scheme is currently only available to specific groups – such as under 16s; or those who qualify for means tested benefits – and have a value of between £39.90 – £219.80 depending on the strength of the prescription required. Despite the £219.80 upper limit, the most common voucher issued is the lower rate of £39.90.