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Help with health costs

Eyecare entitlements

Some groups of patients are entitled to free NHS sight tests and optical vouchers to help with the cost of glasses or contact lenses. 

Patients who are not eligible for NHS sight tests will pay privately for a sight test.

The section below will explain if you are entitled to a free NHS sight test or NHS optical voucher and how to claim them.

Am I entitled to 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
  • a prisoner on leave from prison

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 receive Universal Credit and meet the criteria
  • 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

An 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 a mobile sight test. If you meet one of the criteria listed below then you may have your sight test at

  • home
    If you are unable to leave home unaccompanied because of physical or mental illness or disability
  • a residential or care home
    If you are a resident and you are unable to leave the home unaccompanied because of physical or mental illness or disability
  • a day centre
    If you cannot get a sight test at an optician's practice because of physical or mental illness, disability or because of difficulties in communicating your health needs unaided.

Tip: You may find more advice and support in our sections about adult social care and caring for someone with communication problems.

Am I entitled to an NHS optical voucher?

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 ophthalmic practitioner will advise you on your entitlement)
  • a prisoner on leave from prison

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 receive Universal Credit and meet the criteria 
  • 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 the optical voucher to the ophthalmic practitioner or a member of their staff.

There are currently ten voucher values. The values are dependent on the strength of your prescription. The stronger your prescription the higher your voucher value. 

If you receive an NHS optical voucher, you are free to take it to any supplier of your choice, providing they accept NHS optical vouchers. 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, 97kb).

How can I 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, 246kb).

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 (PDF, 246kb) 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 – charges and optical vouchers (PDF, 97kb).

Page last reviewed: 09/09/2014

Next review due: 09/09/2016

Paying NHS charges

Read about rules on exemptions, claiming refunds, and what happens if you're caught claiming refunds dishonestly

Important numbers

Phone 0300 330 1348 for the dental services help line

Phone 0300 330 1343 for the Low Income Scheme help line

Phone 0300 330 1341 for queries about medical exemption certificates.

Phone 0300 330 1341 for queries about PPCs.

Phone 0300 330 1349 for the prescription services help line

Phone 0300 330 1347 for queries about tax credit certificates

Phone 0300 123 0849 to order a paper copy of the HC12, HC5 and HC1 (SC) forms

For all other queries call 0300 330 1343

 

 

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Media last reviewed: 13/06/2014

Next review due: 13/06/2016