It is important for you to have regular eye examinations. This will ensure that your prescription is up to date and that your eyes remain healthy.
Who qualifies for a free eye test?
The following groups of people may qualify for a free eye test on the NHS. Those who qualify for a free eye test may even be offered an optical voucher to use towards the cost of their glasses or contact lenses.
If you are under the age of 16, or are 16, 17 or 18 and in full-time education - i.e. College, 6th form, or an apprenticeship, you are entitled to a free eye test on the NHS.
If you are 60 years old or over, you are entitled to a free eye test on the NHS.
The visually impaired
If you are officially registered as partially sighted or blind, you are entitled to a free eye test on the NHS. If you are 40 or over with a mother, father, sibling or child that has been diagnosed with glaucoma, and if you have been advised by an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) that you’re at risk of glaucoma you are also entitled to a free eye test.
If you are a prisoner or on leave from prison, you are entitled to a free eye test on the NHS.
Those on benefits
Those on government benefits are also entitled to a free eye test. This includes people who receive:
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income Support Tax credits and meet the specified criteria
- Universal Credit and meet the specified criteria
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-based Employment and Support Allowance Get Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
Additionally, if you have a low income and are named on a valid NHS HC2 certificate for full help with health costs, you are entitled to a free eye test on the NHS.
You may also be entitled to a reduced cost sight test if you have a low income and are named on a valid NHS HC3 certificate for partial help with health costs.
What to bring to your eye test
If you fall into one of the criteria above, you'll need to sign a form online before your appointment as proof that you are eligible for an NHS-funded eye test and in some cases an NHS optical voucher too. You'll also be asked to sign an online GOS1 form. This form is used to collect information regarding your eligibility status.
Where can I get a free eye test?
Most high street opticians in the UK offer free eye tests funded by the NHS to those who qualify. It's usually a simple and easy process. You can book an appointment online to get a free eye test at most opticians including Boots opticians, Vision Express or Specsavers.
Who is eligible for a free mobile eye test?
Those who are entitled to a free NHS eye test, may also be eligible for a mobile eye test, in which a qualified optician comes to you to examine your eyes, as opposed to you going to an optician.
You are eligible for a mobile eye test if:
- You reside in a care/ residential home and are not able to leave your residence without a guide because of a physical/ mental illness or disability.
- You reside at your own home but are not able to leave unaccompanied because of a physical/ mental illness or disability.
- You have difficulties communicating your health needs unaided and need a specialised practitioner.
How can I claim a refund?
If you think that you may qualify for a free NHS eye test but have already paid to get your eyes tested or think you qualify but are unsure, simply ask your optometrist for a receipt with the date that you paid. You can then complete an HC5 claim form for optical charges.
You can also claim a full refund if you paid for your glasses or contact lenses and then find out that you qualified for a voucher as long as you have the receipt. You'll be refunded for the voucher value that matches your prescription.
If you've lost your glasses or contact lenses, or if they have been damaged, you can claim a refund for values and repairs, so long as you qualify for a voucher.
How long does an eye test take?
This usually depends on the patient. For example, an eye test for someone young and healthy should only take around 20 minutes, whereas an older patient with problematic conditions such as age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma might spend longer having an eye test.
It takes around 20 minutes to half an hour to get an average eye test which includes three main checks - a test for eyesight, a test for eye health and a general health check. The eye health test will look for signs of problems such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, whereas a general health check will look for signs of diabetes and high blood pressure.
How often can I get a free eye test?
You can get an eye test when you suspect there is a problem with your eyes, or there has been a noticeable change in your vision. You should aim to get an eye test every two years or otherwise directed by your practitioner. An eye test can pick up on early signs of diabetes, glaucoma and even brain tumours!
Some opticians will waive the cost of an eye test or a contact lens check-up if you purchase directly from them after your test or sign up for a direct-debit scheme. If you are looking for a more cost effective way to purchase contact lenses it is perfectly safe to pay for your contact lens test, receive your prescription from your optician and buy your contact lenses online from trusted websites. Feel Good Contacts offer a Price Match Guarantee against all major UK contact lens retailers.
For further optical advice, healthcare and aftercare, put together by our expert opticians, please visit our eye care hub.
Learn more about prescription glasses or contact lenses and get advice on contact lens care, how to use them and eye health. Learn how prescriptions and eye tests are important so that you can protect your eyes all year round. We also have guides to various eye problems, how you can deal with them and much more.
For further professional advice our customer service team are open 8am-9pm weekdays and 9am-5:30pm on weekends & bank holidays. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us on 0800 458 2090 (free).