NHS Entitlements

In England and Northern Ireland, and Wales

A sight examination is paid for by the NHS for everyone 60 years and over, those whose close relatives have been diagnosed as having glaucoma, all children under 16, or under 19 if attending full time education. Those receiving income support, job seekers allowance and tax credits etc., assessed benefits on a valid HC2 or HC3 certificate. Those suffering from diabetes or glaucoma. The registered blind or partially sighted and those issued with complex lens vouchers.

A full list of exemptions

You’re entitled to a free NHS sight test if you:

  • are under 16
  • are 16, 17 or 18 and in full-time education
  • are 60 or over
  • are registered as partially sighted or blind
  • have been diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma
  • are 40 or over and your mother, father, sibling or child has been diagnosed with glaucoma
  • have been advised by an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) that you’re at risk of glaucoma
  • are a prisoner on leave from prison
  • are eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher – your optician can advise you about your entitlement

You’re also entitled if you or your partner – including civil partner – receive, or you’re under the age of 20 and the dependant of someone receiving:

If you’re entitled to or named on:

  • a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate (if you do not have a certificate, you can show your award notice), you qualify if you get Child Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits with a disability element (or both), and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less
  • 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 with the cost of a private sight test.

How often you can have a sight test that is paid for by the NHS will vary due to any conditions that you have.

Should a prescription be necessary benefit claimants and HC holders, Children and those needing complex lenses will be given a voucher to help towards the cost of spectacles or contact lenses.


All sight tests are free for those living in Scotland. The voucher system is the same as in England.

Voucher values

These are set each year reflecting the complexity of the lens power and design. Increased voucher values from Government have not kept up with inflation and a smaller percentage of opticians stock a range of spectacles are now covered by the lowest voucher value but many patients decide to contribute more adding to the voucher value to enable them to choose a higher quality frame and/or lens type.


Read about

Private Charges and Payment Plans for Eye Tests and Examinations