Optician

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Ophthalmic opticians carry out eye tests to check the quality of your sight and look for signs of eye disease which may need treatment by a doctor or eye surgeon.

A pair of glasses from the opticians.Opticians will also prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses.

It is recommended that people between the ages of 18 and 69 have their eyes tested every 2 years and those aged 70 or over have an eye test every 12 months.

Sensory Support Team (South Eastern HSC Trust)

 
The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust have teams of staff working specifically to help people who are blind or deaf, have diminished vision or difficulties hearing. This team is known as the Sensory Support Team.
 
You can self refer or be referred to the Sensory Support Team through your GP, hospital consultant, health visitor, social worker or voluntary agency. For more information you can contact the Sensory Support Team:
►Tel: (028) 9151 0136 (North Down/Ards)
►Tel: (028) 9260 7746 (Lisburn)
►Tel: (028) 4461 6915 (Downpatrick)
 

Below we have information on what entitlements you can expect when visiting an optician or what charges you may have to pay.

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Entitlements

Most opticians providing sight tests and eye examinations also provide Health Service (HS) tests.

For contact details of your local opticians, visit the Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland website

When an optician carries out a sight test, they must give you a prescription for glasses or contact lenses or a statement saying that you do not need them.

Also, it should be noted that you can go to a different optician each time you need optical treatment.

A prescription can be used to buy glasses from any dispensing optician or retailer of glasses within two years. You may be entitled to free eye tests and vouchers towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses.

Free sight tests are available to you if you:

  • Are aged 60 or over
  • Are registered blind or partially sighted
  • Have certain medical conditions such as glaucoma or diabetes
  • Are aged 40 or over and are a parent, brother, sister, son or daughter of a diagnosed glaucoma patient
  • Or your partner get certain benefits - Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, Income Support, Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance and Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Are on a low income and have a HC2 certificate under the Low Income Scheme
  • Are a patient of the Hospital Eye Service
  • Are a war/service pensioner (the need must be due to your accepted war disablement)
  • Are named on a valid tax credit exemption certificate
  • Are a prisoner

If you do not qualify for help with the cost of an HS sight test, you will have to pay the full cost of the test and this will vary from one optician to another.

If you are too ill to leave home

If you are housebound, an optician may visit you in your home. However, unless you are entitled to a free HS sight test, the optician can charge for a home visit.

You are still in employment

If you are still in employment, in some circumstances you can ask your employer to pay for your eye test. This will be dependent on the type of work you do.

If you work with a visual display unit (VDU) such as a computer or ticket machine for continuous spells (of an hour or more) and the VDU is essential to your job, you can request that your employers arrange and pay for an eye test under Health and Safety Regulations 1999 (Regulation 5).

Please note that it is the employee’s responsibility to request the test and not the responsibility of the employer to offer it. However, under Regulation 7 employers are required to ensure that employees that use display screen equipment are aware of their right to ask for a free eye test.

As an employee, you are also entitled to further tests at regular intervals if recommended by an optician/doctor. You can also request a health and safety assessment of your workstation which can assess, for example, whether it has adequate lighting.

If you feel that the VDU use is making your eyes tired, you should tell your employer. As well as providing a free eye test, in some circumstances they may also be required to pay for glasses.

If you are prescribed glasses to help with using the VDU, your employer should pay for a basic pair of glasses for you, provided that they are required especially for the work. Employers only have to pay for spectacles if special ones (for example, prescribed for the distance at which the screen is viewed) are needed and normal ones cannot be used.

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Help with costs

Vouchers towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses are available to you if you:

  • Need complex lenses
  • Or you partner gets certain benefits - Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, Income Support, Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance and Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Are on a low income and have a HC2 certificate under the Low Income Scheme
  • Are a war/service pensioner (the need must be due to your accepted war disablement)
  • Are named on a valid tax credit exemption certificate
  • Are a patient of the Hospital Eye Service

You can only get a voucher if:

  • You need the glasses/lenses for the first time
  • Your old ones have worn out through fair wear and tear
  • Your new prescription differs from their old one.

If you are entitled to a voucher towards the cost of glasses, you should ask for this when you have your eyes tested. The value of the voucher will depend on the strength of the lenses you need with additions for prisms or tints that are clinically necessary.

If the glasses or contact lenses cost more than the value of the voucher, you will have to pay the difference. If you have a HC3 certificate under the Low Income Scheme, you may be entitled to partial help with the costs.

Repairs

If you are entitled to vouchers and your glasses are broken, you may also be able to get help with the cost of repairs.

Refunds

You can claim a refund for the cost of the sight test within 3 months (or later if you have good cause) of the date you paid for treatment if you should have been entitled to help. When you pay, ask the optician for a receipt and follow the instructions on the form.

For further information, you can download Help with Health Costs: HC 11 (PDF 447 KB) from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety or contact the Health Charges Helpline on 0800 587 8982.

 

Complaints

If you have a complaint regarding the service or product that you received from the optician, it is treated as a normal consumer complaint. In the first instance, bring your concerns to the optician.

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