Blind Britain

Money worries put millions of Brits at risk of avoidable sight loss

Twenty million Brits are putting their sight at risk by failing to have regular sight tests, according to a new study* launched to mark the start of National Eye Week (24 - 30 November, 2008).

Despite 85 per cent of us admitting we have problems with our vision many of us (37%) are put off having a sight test because of worries about money – even though more than 30 million people in the UK are entitled to free eye care (tests and/or vouchers to cover the cost of any vision correction required) paid for by the NHS and many more are entitled to free eye care paid for by their employer**.

National sight charity the Eyecare Trust and Boots Opticians, have joined forces during National Eye Week to raise public awareness of entitlements to eye care on the NHS and the frightening consequences of neglecting your sight.

Commenting on the state of the nation’s eyes Iain Anderson, chairman of the Eyecare Trust said: “Sight loss already costs the British economy £5.5 billion a year*** and with official estimates predicting that the number of people registered blind will double by 2030**** it’s vital that we encourage more people have regular sight tests – generally once every two years unless advised otherwise by your optometrist.”

Iain continues: “Worryingly our study highlights how it’s the sectors of society – children and pensioners – that are most vulnerable to sight loss who are failing to get their sight tested and paradoxically these are the very people who are most likely to be entitled to NHS eye care!”

The Trust estimates that one in five children has an undetected problem with their vision yet, 50 per cent of parents with children aged eight or under have never taken their offspring for a sight test.

David Cartwright, director of professional services, Boots Opticians comments: “As a child’s eyesight is usually fully developed by the age of eight, it is crucial that eye tests are carried out at least once a year from the age of three. Sight tests for all children in Britain are free on the NHS – the only investment parents have to make is time.”

David continues: “Conditions such as squint or Amblyopia (lazy eye) can lead to lifelong problems so it really is a case of ‘After Eight is too Late’. If detected early, many problems can be easily corrected, usually with glasses. Poor eyesight is not always obvious to parents, or even teachers, and can severely restrict a child’s ability to learn, read, write and spell.”

Passive pensioners are another ‘at risk’ group. Four million OAPs miss out on free NHS sight tests every year and yet, a quarter of over 60s say the quality of their vision restricts their daily routine.

Regular sight tests are vital for the early diagnosis and successful treatment of a range of common eye conditions including age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. They also provide an essential general health check uncovering a number of other underlying health problems such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and an increased risk of stroke.

Who is entitled to free eye care paid for by the NHS?



You can get free sight tests if you:

  • are under 16
  • are 16-18 and in full-time education
  • are 60 or over
  • live in Scotland
  • are a diagnosed glaucoma patient
  • have been advised by an ophthalmologist that you are at risk of glaucoma
  • are 40 or over and are a parent, brother, sister, son or daughter of a diagnosed glaucoma patient
  • have been diagnosed as diabetic
  • are registered as blind or partially sighted
  • have been prescribed certain complex lenses, such as certain types of bifocal, or powerful lenses
  • are someone whose sight test is carried out in hospital



You are also entitled to free sight tests if you or your partner (including civil partners), receive either:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit; or you are named on, or entitled to (use your award notice as evidence), an NHS tax credit exemption certificate, or
  • you are named on a valid HC2 certificate.

Partial help: if you are named on a valid HC3 certificate you might get some help towards the cost of a private sight test.


You are entitled to vouchers towards the cost of glasses

  • you are under 16, or aged 16-18 and in full-time education.
  • in group 2 above.

Partial help: if you are named on a valid HC3 certificate

Log on to for more information about caring for your eyes and to test your visual performance with the interactive Vutest.

Notes to editors

Regional breakdown of statistics and photography available on request.

During National Eye Week 24 - 30 November 2008 Boots Opticians is offering everyone a free eye test when they buy a complete pair of glasses. Terms and conditions apply.

The Eyecare Trust is a registered charity that exists to raise awareness of all aspects of ocular health and the importance of regular eye care.

* State of the Nation’s Eyes Study canvassed 4,000 adults across the UK (OnePoll and Shape the Future). Twenty million Brits figure calculated using DoH figures.

** Employees who regularly use a VDU at work are entitled to regular sight tests paid for by their employer. Your employer must also pay for a pair of basic spectacles if it is shown that you require correction specifically for VDU use.

*** Eye Health Alliance 2008

**** RNIB

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