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Optician is a general term that covers both optometrists and dispensing opticians. Optometrists carry out sight tests to check the quality of your vision and eye health. They look for signs of eye disease such as glaucoma or cataracts that may need treatment from a doctor or eye surgeon, and prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses.

Dispensing opticians fit glasses and contact lenses, but do not test eyes. After the sight test, the optician must legally give you your spectacle prescription (whether new or unchanged) or a statement saying that you did not need a prescription. This statement will also say if you are being referred to your GP or ophthalmic hospital.

Eyecare costs

You may qualify for help towards the cost of your glasses or lenses in the form of an NHS Optical voucher, or you may be entitled to a free NHS funded sight test, depending on your circumstances.

NHS optical voucher

You may get help with the cost of glasses or contact lenses if you are:

  • Aged under 16, or aged under 19 and in full-time education
  • Eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher (your optician will advise on your entitlement)
  • Receive certain benefits.

Free NHS funded sight tests

You qualify for a free NHS funded sight test if you are:

  • Aged under 16, or aged under 19 and in full-time Education 
  • Aged 60 or over 
  • Registered blind or partially sighted 
  • Diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma 
  • Aged 40 or over and you are the parent, brother, sister, son or daughter of a person diagnosed with glaucoma, or you have been advised by an ophthalmologist that you are at risk of glaucoma 
  • Eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher 
  • Receive certain benefits.

If you have a low income, you may be able to get help with NHS costs through the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS).