Can I get a free eye test?

You can pay around £25 for an eye test, it’s worth checking if you can claim a free one.

A pair of glasses held next to the diagram of the Snellen vision test
(Image credit: Getty images)

Almost three in five people in the UK wear spectacles, and one in 10 wear contact lenses. But millions of us missed out on eye tests due to the pandemic - here’s what you need to know about free eye tests.

You might qualify for a free NHS eye test depending on your age, health and financial situation. And if you pay for a sight test but later find you could have got it for free, you could even be able to claim a refund.  

Here we explain who qualifies for a free eye test and how you can claim your money back if you’ve paid for an eye test when it should have been free.

Who qualifies for a free eye test?

According to the NHS - you are entitled to a free sight test if you are –

  • Under 16
  • Between 16 – 18 and in full time education
  • 60 or over
  • Registered as partially sighted or blind
  • Have been diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma
  • Age 40 or over and a member of your immediate family has been diagnosed with glaucoma
  • If you’ve been told by an eye specialist you’re at risk of glaucoma
  • If you are a prisoner on leave from prison
  • Eligible for a NHS complex lens voucher in which case your optician can advise you further 
  • Are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
  • On a low income and named on a valid HC2 or HC3 certificate

Free eye tests if you get benefits

If you or your partner claim any of the following benefits or payments you can get a free eye test.

  • Income Support
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Universal Credit

You can also qualify for free eye tests if you are under 20 and the dependent of someone receiving any of these benefits. 

As well as a free sight test, you might also be able to claim an optical voucher to put towards the cost of any glasses or contact lenses you need.

You can ask your boss to pay for your eye test

Depending on the job you do you can ask your boss to cover the cost of your eye test.  It applies if you’re expected to work on a laptop or computer for at least one hour or more each day.  

Under Health and Safety regulations your employer must pay for a sight test if you ask for one, although you might be asked to arrange this yourself and claim back the cost.

How to claim your free eye test

If you’re entitled to a free test – you can get one every two years - unless your optician wants to see you sooner.  

When you book an appointment your optician will need to fill in some forms so you don’t have to pay.  

If you qualify due to claiming benefits they might need to see some proof of this.

You can get a refund for your eye test

You might be able to claim a refund if you’ve already paid for an eye test, but later find you could have got a free one. 

And if you book an eye test, but are unsure if you’re entitled to a free one, keep the receipt as you could be able to get your money back.

In both cases, you need to download, complete and return a HC5(O) refund form from the NHS website along with your till receipt in England. Claims must be made within three months of paying for your eye test. There are slightly different forms and rules if you live in Scotland and Wales.

Free eye tests at home

If you’re entitled to a free eye test and have an illness or condition that makes it hard to leave the house, you can arrange to have your eye test at home.  

Specsavers provide this service at no extra cost, however not all high street opticians offer a mobile service.  

Other specialist mobile services include OutsideClinic which is based in Swindon but offers services across England, Scotland and Wales.  If you’re not entitled to a free eye test – it costs £60.

Sue Hayward

Sue Hayward is a personal finance and consumer journalist, broadcaster and author who regularly chats on TV and Radio on ways to get more power for your pound.  Sue’s written for a wide range of publications including the Guardian, i Paper, Good Housekeeping, Lovemoney and My Weekly. Cats, cheese and travel are Sue’s passions away from her desk!