Can I get laser eye surgery on the NHS?

It depends on what eye condition you have.

Laser surgery is available on the NHS for eye conditions that, without treatment, can lead to loss of vision. However, it’s not available for conditions that can be treated successfully in other ways, such as short or long sightedness, which can be treated with glasses or contact lenses.

Which conditions can be treated on the NHS?

Laser surgery is available on the NHS for eye conditions that, without treatment, can lead to loss of vision, including blindness.

These include:

  • diabetic retinopathy (damage to blood vessels on the retina at the back of the eye)
  • thickening of the lens capsule (the "pocket" that the lens sits in) after cataract surgery
  • some types of wet macular degeneration
  • some specific diseases of the cornea, such as recurrent corneal erosions

Which conditions cannot be treated on the NHS?

Laser eye surgery is widely used to help treat refractive errors such as:

However, these conditions are not available for treatment on the NHS because other successful treatments are available, such as wearing glasses or contact lenses.

Some NHS trusts run laser eye surgery clinics, but they usually charge a fee.

Finding a clinic for laser eye surgery

If you decide to have laser eye surgery to correct a refractive error, speak to your optometrist (optician) first. They can advise you on the procedure and recommend clinics in your area. Guidelines from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) say that only registered surgeons with specialist training should carry out laser surgery.

Most clinics that carry out laser surgery for refractive errors will require you to:

  • be over 21
  • be in good general health
  • have healthy eyes
  • have had a stable prescription (one with very little change) for the past two to three years

Read more about having laser eye surgery for refractive errors.

Guidance is also available from:

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 01/04/2017

Next review due: 01/04/2020