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Am I entitled to a free eye test and NHS optical vouchers?

Am I entitled to a free eye test and NHS optical vouchers?

You probably use your eyes all day (unless you really love to nap!), so you want to make sure they’re working properly. If you’ve not had an eye test for a few years, you might be surprised how much your eyesight has changed. Here’s how to find out if you’re entitled to a free eye test or NHS optical vouchers.

How much is an eye test?  

The typical price for an eye test is £20-£25. The exact price will vary depending on where you are and whether you’re looking to use a local independent optician or a branch of a larger chain. 

Who is entitled to a free eye test?

There are actually a few ways to get a free eye test, such as through NHS-funded eye tests, so wait to book until you’ve checked all of these.  

Are students eligible for free eye tests?  

If you’re aged 16, 17 or 18 and are in full-time education then yes, you’re eligible for free NHS eye tests. 

If you’re under 16, you can also get free NHS eye tests. 

Do you get free eye tests when pregnant? 

You do not qualify for free NHS eye tests when you’re pregnant, but you do get a number of other benefits

Are eye tests free for over 60s?

If you’re aged over 60 then yes, you qualify for free NHS eye tests. 

Do I get free eye tests if I’m receiving benefits? 

Depending on what benefits you’re receiving, yes, you could receive a free NHS eye test. 

If you receive any of these, you’ll get eye tests for free: 

If you have a low income and have an NHS HC2 certificate that gives you full help with health costs, you’ll also qualify for free NHS eye tests. 

You might be able to get a reduced cost eye test if you have a low income and an NHS HC3 certificate

Can people with eye conditions get free NHS eye tests? 

It depends what medical condition you have, but here are the conditions that mean you qualify for free NHS eye tests: 

  • you’re registered as partially sighted or blind 
  • you have diabetes or glaucoma 
  • you’re 40 years of age or older and one of your parents, a sibling or child has been diagnosed with glaucoma 
  • you’ve been told by your eye doctor that you’re at risk of developing glaucoma 
  • you qualify for an NHS complex lens voucher. These are for people who need very strong lenses. Your optician will tell you whether you’re entitled to one. 

Can prisoners get free eye tests? 

If you’re on leave from prison you can also receive free NHS eye tests.

If you’re not eligible, what other ways of getting free eye tests are there? 

Maybe you can’t get a free test because of your situation, but there are other ways.

First, if you' re a UK resident, you can get a free NHS eye examination by any optometrist in Scotland who provides NHS services. Find out more on

Second, you can search online for free eye tests. 

Lots of the larger chain opticians have special offers on throughout the year, letting you download a voucher for a free eye test.  There might also be vouchers you can cut out of local newspapers, flyers or magazines, so keep an eye out. 

Sometimes going to a free test will mean they’ll try to sell you glasses, but you don’t have to buy anything right there and can look somewhere else when you’re ready. 

How can I get an NHS optical voucher?

An optical voucher gives you help towards the cost of contact lenses or glasses. You’re entitled to one if: 

  • you’re less than 16 years old 
  • you’re aged 16, 17 or 18 and in full-time education 
  • you’re a prisoner and are on leave from prison 
  • you can get an NHS complex lens voucher, which are for people with very high prescriptions. The optician who does your eye test can tell you if you’re eligible for one. 
  • you currently get Income Support 
  • you’re getting Universal Credit and meet the eligibility criteria
  • you get Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance 
  • you get Income-based Employment and Support Allowance 
  • you’re in receipt of Pension Credit Guarantee Credit 
  • you get tax credits and meet certain criteria 
  • you have an NHS HC2 certificate and are on a low income.

You could also be eligible for an optical voucher if you have an HC3 certificate.  

How can I get a complex lens voucher? 

If your prescription is for lenses that are -10 or +10 dioptres or more, you’ll be eligible for a complex lens voucher. If you need a prism-controlled bifocal lens, you’ll also qualify. 

The voucher means you’ll get money off the cost of your lenses, which is currently £14.60 for single vision lenses and £37.40 for bifocal lenses. 

Am I entitled to free glasses? 

While you can get free eye tests and vouchers to get money off glasses, you can’t get free glasses. 

The vouchers that are available vary in the discount they give you on the price of your glasses between £39.10 and £215.30. If the voucher covers the entire cost of your glasses, then they’ll effectively be free, but you’ll need to pay the difference if the glasses cost more than your voucher. 

There are 10 different vouchers you may qualify for. Eligibility depends on your prescription and the type of lens you need, but also whether you qualify at all for vouchers (see above). 

Find out more about NHS glasses and lenses vouchers

What’s the average contact lens prices? 

There are quite a variety of contact lens types. There are single-use daily lenses, 2 weekly lenses, monthly lenses, extended wear lenses, multifocal lenses and toric lenses. Your optician will be able to help you work out which lenses are right for you. 

Daily lenses 

These are the simplest lenses, but not the cheapest as they’re only for use on one day, and then you throw them away. They start at around £18 for a month’s worth of lenses for both eyes and go up to about £40. They’re very popular so there’s lots of choice. 

2 weekly lenses 

These can be kept in your eyes all day, every day, for 14 days. You’ll put them in a special container with lens fluid at night. They start at around £26 for a 3 month supply for both eyes and go up to £36.

Monthly lenses 

These are lenses that you can wear in your eyes every day for a month, but not at night. They’re put in a container with fluid so you can reuse them the next day. These are probably the cheapest option and start at about £10 for a 3 month supply for both eyes. They go up to about £42. 

Specialist contact lenses

The following types of lenses are all for more specialised prescriptions. You can get a blend of lenses, for example toric lenses that are also monthly lenses. But these more advanced prescriptions often mean lenses cost more. 

Extended wear lenses 

These are lenses that are designed to be worn in the day and at night when you’re asleep, from anywhere from a week to a month. They start at around £22 for both eyes for 3 months, up to £64. 

Multifocal lenses 

If you need a prescription that corrects your near and far vision, you’ll need multifocals. These start from £40 for a 3 month supply for both eyes, all the way up to £68. 

Toric contact lenses 

These are contact lenses that correct astigmatism, which is a condition where your eye shape affects your vision. These lenses start at £28 for both eyes for a 3 month supply and go up to £54. 

Free contact lens trials 

Most chain optician, local independent opticians, and even contact lens manufacturers themselves will let you trial lenses before settling on the type you like. Just ask locally and see who offers what, or take a look online. 

We’d still recommend going in and letting a qualified optician check your eyes and carry out a special contact lens eye test. You can then discuss with them what type of lenses you need and can start your free trial. 

Often, you’ll get a few days’ worth or a week, and will get a follow-up appointment to see how you got on. 

Lenses from different brands or different lens types can feel different, and your needs may change. Some people have daily lenses to go swimming (with goggles) once a week but use monthly lenses for the rest of the time. 

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