This guide explains how sight tests are funded in each of the four nations of the United Kingdom. The NHS-funded sight test is a nationally commissioned service in each UK nation.
Optometrists, like many other primary care professionals, are contracted by the NHS to deliver NHS services. The General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) contract pays a standard amount of money for each sight test that is conducted by an optometrist or ophthalmic medical practitioner (OMP) on behalf of the NHS. GOS also pays fees to deliver domiciliary sight tests for people that cannot attend an appointment on the High Street.Each year the price of GOS test in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland is set by government after discussions with the Optometric Fees Negotiating Committee (ONFC). The OFNC is made up of representatives from the Optical Confederation, the Local Optical Council Support Unit (LOCSU) and the British Medical Association (BMA), who negotiate this fee with the Department of Health and NHS England.In Scotland, Optometry Scotland negotiates this fee with the Scottish Government.
The following groups are eligible for free NHS sight tests in England, Wales and Northern Ireland:
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, people who do not qualify for an NHS sight test pay for their sight tests privately. The fees for this are market driven and vary. The basic requirements for NHS and private sight tests are identical but some practices have invested in equipment which allows them to provide more specialised examinations, and they may charge extra for this.
In Scotland, NHS eye tests have been extended to the entire population since 2006. This means that there are no exemptions and anyone from the UK can access a sight test in Scotland free of charge.There are two types of examination that are covered by GOS in Scotland with different fees:
The NHS in Wales funds sight tests for exempt individuals. The sight test fee in Wales is £21.31.However, the Welsh NHS has nationally commissioned a number of enhanced eye services that go above and beyond the remit of services that are covered by GOS. These services are delivered through the Eye Health Examination Wales (EHEW) scheme and include a number of banded services.
The sight test fee in Northern Ireland has been increased to £21.31 to bring it in line with the fee in England and Wales. Sight tests are available for free on the NHS for exempt individuals. These are the same as the exemptions in England.