Your Eyes

Why you should have regular eye tests and how to go about it

Vision is the sense many of us value the most and the one we most fear losing.  We depend on good vision for so many everyday activities – finding our way easily around our homes and outside, watching TV, reading, driving or simply enjoying a beautiful view.

Optical professionals and optical businesses are here to help you look after your eyesight and your eye health.

Regular eye examinations should be part of your health care routine, in the same way as dental check-ups.

The number of cases of short-sightedness is growing in children, And, as we age, some eye conditions become more common with many people finding they need glasses in their 30s and 40s, while cataracts and glaucoma are more prevalent among the elderly.

All of these problems can be identified with regular eye examinations and can then be corrected or treated, enabling you to carry on with your everyday activities.

An eye examination can also help to identify the early symptoms of other health problems – such as diabetes – so that you can take prompt action to treat them too.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland you can have a free, NHS funded sight test if you are:

  • 60 or over
  • Under 16
  • 16-19 and in full time education
  • Diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma (or you are over 40 and are the parent, sister, brother, daughter or son of someone with diabetes or glaucoma)
  • Registered blind or partially sighted
  • Eligible for a complex lens voucher (as advised by your optician)
  • Receiving one of the following benefits: Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, or if you receive Tax Credits or Universal Credit and you meet qualifying conditions
  • The holder of a low income certificate (HC2 or HC3)
  • A prisoner on leave

In Scotland free NHS funded sight tests are available for everyone.

Optical practices are private businesses and they can be found on every high street across the country. Appointments are available at times that are convenient for you, including weekends. Many practices will be able to offer you an appointment on the same day.

You can also search for practices in England online using the NHS website here.

NHS Direct website holds information on opticians and special eye examinations in Wales, including Wales Eye Care Services (WECS).  Please check here for further information.

The Scottish Government website holds information about accessing free NHS eye examinations in Scotland. Please check here for further information.

In Northern Ireland NI Direct holds information about entitlement to NHS-funded sight tests and eye care across the country. Please click here for further information.

An Optometrist will be able to test your sight at home using portable versions of the normal equipment.  You will also be able to choose and order spectacles or contact lenses, and have them fitted, from home.

If you are entitled to an NHS sight test, you will be able to have this service free under the NHS if you are unable to leave home unaided as a result of injury or physical or mental illness.

You can find out about opticians who offer this service in your area here.

Good eye-sight and vision is critical for safety while driving. The DVLA website provides further information on the specific requirements here.

If you notice or suspect any change in your vision, do not delay, visit your optometrist as soon as you can. They can advise on whether you meet the vision standard for driving, and if you do not, they can provide you with suitable lenses, frames, sunglasses and lens coatings for driving.

Remember, it is a criminal offence to drive with eyesight below the minimum legal standard.

You must notify the DVLA if your vision changes and you are advised by an optometrist or a medical practitioner that you should no longer drive. Once a driver reaches the age of 70 the DVLA requires drivers to declare whether they are fit to drive and then every three years.

The Optical Confederation have produced key facts for drivers. And the DVLA website provides further information on the specific requirements here.

The General Optical Council (GOC) is the UK regulator for the optical sector, regulating optometrists and dispensing opticians. The GOC’s main aims are to protect the public and to promote high standards of professional conduct and education amongst opticians.

The GOC publishes a list of registered optometrists, dispensing opticians and pre-registration optometrists accessible by businesses and the general public.

If you are unhappy with any aspect of your treatment you should return to your optician, explaining what is wrong and give them the opportunity to put it right.

All optical practices have a customer complaints process, so if your first approach does not resolve the issue, you can then make a formal complaint.

Most complaints are managed informally. But if you are still unhappy, or do not want to go back to the practice, you can also raise your concerns with the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS).

The OCCS is an independent and free mediation service and is funded by the General Optical Council.

Want to know more about opticians and eye tests?  Click here.

In England, the NHS  explains eye care services and your entitlements and can also help you find a local optician.

For the other three UK countries, you can find more information at:

Optometry Northern Ireland

Optometry Scotland

Optometry Wales

The General Optical Council – regulates optometrists and opticians.

Optical Consumer Complaints Service  – an independent complaints and arbitration service.


The following charities also provide useful resources, advice and information:

Royal National Institute of Blind People


Fight for Sight

Guide Dogs for the Blind

International Glaucoma Association

Vision Care for Homeless People