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You are here > Home > Help with Health Costs and Money Issues > Free Eye Tests and Optical Vouchers

Free Eye Tests and Optical Vouchers - A Guide

A Guide to entitlement to free NHS eye tests or optical vouchers
for glasses or contact lenses and how to claim a refund.

Free NHS sight test
NHS optical vouchers
Claim help with optical charges
How to claim a refund

Free NHS sight test

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

You are also entitled to a free NHS sight test if:

  • you receive Income Support or Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (not contribution based)
  • you receive Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • you receive Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • you are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
  • you are named on a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2)

People named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (HC3) may also get help.

Also read about the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS).



NHS-funded mobile sight tests

A NHS-funded mobile sight test is where an optometrist comes to visit you in your own home or at a day centre.

If you are eligible for an NHS-funded sight test you may also be entitled to obtain mobile services if you meet one of the criteria listed below:

  • At home
    If you are unable to leave home unaccompanied because of physical or mental illness or disability.
  • At a residential or care home
    If you normally live there and you are unable to leave the home unaccompanied because of physical or mental illness or disability.
  • At a day centre
    If you would have difficulty in obtaining sight testing services from an optician's practice because of physical or mental illness or
    disability or because of difficulties in communicating your health needs unaided.

You will be asked to show proof of your entitlement to free NHS sight tests.

If you do not fall within one of the eligible groups who are entitled to a free NHS sight test you will need to pay for it privately.
The cost of private sight tests can vary with each optician and it is advisable to shop around.

NHS optical vouchers

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 or
  • are eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher (your optician will advise on your entitlement)

You may also get an NHS optical voucher if:

  • You receive Income Support or Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (not contribution-based).
  • You receive Pension Credit Guarantee Credit.
  • You receive Income-based Employment and Support Allowance.
  • You are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate.
  • You are named on a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2).

People named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (HC3) may also get help.

You will be asked to show proof of your entitlement to NHS optical vouchers.There are currently 8 voucher values.

The values are dependent on the strength of your prescription, the higher your prescription the higher your voucher value.
If your glasses or contact lenses cost more than your voucher value, you will have to pay the difference.

For more information download the leaflet HC12: charges and optical vouchers (PDF).



Claiming help with optical charges

When you go for your sight test, tell the optician if you are entitled to a free NHS sight test and ask for form GOS1 to apply for it.

If you have a valid HC3 certificate, show it to the optician and ask if you are entitled to any help with the cost of your private sight test.
You apply for this help on form GOS5.

If you are entitled to an optical voucher, ask about this when you have your sight test.

How to claim a refund:

Sight test fees

Ask the person who tests your sight for a receipt that shows that you paid for the test and the date of payment. Complete an HC5 claim form for optical charges (PDF).

Glasses or contact lenses

If you have already used a voucher towards the cost of your glasses or lenses, you cannot get a refund unless it was a “complex lens” voucher. Nor can you claim a refund of the difference between the voucher value and the actual cost of your glasses or lenses, even if they cost more than the voucher value.

If you want to claim a refund, ask the person who supplies your glasses or contact lenses for a receipt that shows how much you paid plus
the date of payment. Complete an HC5 refund form and make sure you enclose your optical prescription and your receipt with your HC5 when you send it off.The maximum refund you can get back will be the voucher value which matches your prescription.

Lost or damaged glasses or contact lenses

If your glasses or contact lenses have been lost or damaged and you pay for replacement or repairs, you will only be considered for a refund if you are entitled to a voucher.

More detailed information is in leaflet HC12



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