Free eye examinations

Optometry services during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Community optometry practices (opticians) have resumed providing routine eyecare services in all settings. This includes regular eye examinations and contact lens check-ups.

You should always tell your optometrist if you or someone you live with has any signs or symptoms of coronavirus. This will help them ensure the safety of you and others when you receive care.

All eye examinations are free in Scotland to those ordinarily resident in the UK, refugees, asylum seekers and some eligible overseas visitors.

Regular free eye health check

It’s important for your eyes to be regularly examined by an optometrist, even if you don’t think you have a problem with your vision.

An NHS funded eye examination in Scotland (called a primary eye examination) tests more than just your sight. It’s a more thorough examination to:

  • check the health of your eyes
  • look for signs of other health problems

It means that any problems with your eyes can be found before they become more serious.

How often should I have my eyes checked?

The decision to carry out an eye examination is a clinical decision made by your optometrist.

Primary eye examinations can only be undertaken at the following intervals:

Category of patient

Maximum frequency at which primary eye examinations are to be carried out

Patients aged under 16 years or 60 years and over


Patients aged between 16 years and 59 years


Patients with diabetes


Patients who are sight impaired or severely sight impaired


Emergency eye problems and ongoing diagnosis/review of conditions in the community

If you have an eye problem, your local opticians (optometry practice) should always be the first place you go to for help.

If your optometrist thinks it's clinically necessary you can still have your eyes examined for free at any time between primary eye examinations. These are called supplementary eye examinations.

Your optometrist might offer a supplementary eye examination if:

  • you have an emergency eye issue, for example a red or sticky eye, blurred or reduced vision, flashers and floaters or pain in or around your eye
  • they want to see you more often for the purposes of ongoing diagnosis or review of conditions such as glaucoma and ocular hypertension.

How to find a local optician

You can find a list of local opticians using our service directory.

NHS optical voucher

An NHS optical voucher helps towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses. If you are entitled to help towards the cost of prescription glasses or contact lenses, you can get an optical voucher. Your partner and children will also be entitled to a voucher if they are included in your benefit award.

You can get a voucher if you:

  • are under 16 years of age
  • are in full-time education and aged 16, 17 or 18
  • need complex lenses

You can also get a voucher if you get, are included in an award of someone getting:

  • Income Support
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit paid on its own or with Savings Credit
  • Universal Credit (UC), if you meet the eligibility criteria

You can also get a voucher if you are:

  • entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate. If you are getting Working Tax Credit and/or Child Tax Credit, you may be entitled to help, depending on your income
  • named on a valid HC2 certificate issued under the NHS Low Income Scheme

If you're eligible, let your optometry practice know. They'll organise your optical voucher.

Additional information for refugees and asylum seekers who may be eligible to receive a NHS optical voucher via a HC2 certificate is available.

Partial help

If you're named on a valid HC3 certificate issued under the NHS Low Income Scheme, you might get some help. If your glasses or contact lenses cost more than your voucher value, you will have to pay the difference.

War pensioners

If you're a war pensioner, you may be entitled to help for the cost of your glasses or contact lenses if the treatment is for your pensionable disablement. For more information contact:

The Treatment Group Veterans Agency

Veterans UK

You can get a pre-paid addressed envelope from some Post Offices.

Repair or replacement of glasses or contact lenses

You can get a voucher towards the cost of repair or replacement if you're under 16 years of age.

If you're 16 or over you may be entitled to a voucher towards the cost of repair or replacement, if all of the following apply:

  • the loss or damage was due to illness or disability
  • you cannot get help through a warranty, insurance or after sales service
  • you would be entitled to a NHS voucher for glasses or contact lenses

If your glasses or contact lenses cost more than your voucher value, you will have to pay the difference.

NHS optical voucher values

Further information on NHS optical voucher values is set out in the ‘Help with health costs (HCS2): quick guide’ booklet.


If you want to claim a refund, ask the person who supplies your glasses or contact lenses for a receipt. This receipt must show how much you paid and the date of payment. If you're claiming because of low income, use form HC5 available from Jobcentre Plus offices, NHS hospitals, or your optician may have one.

Complete the HC5 form and send it off, making sure you enclose your optical prescription and your receipt. The form tells you what to do. The maximum refund you get back will be the voucher value that matches your prescription.

If you've already used a voucher towards the cost of your glasses or contact lenses you can't get a refund, unless it was only a “complex lens” voucher. You can't claim for 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 for a reason other than low income, you'll need to send Practitioner Services a letter, enclosing your receipt.

How to contact Practitioner Services

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'll only be considered for a refund if the loss or damage was due to illness or disability.

Last updated:
09 December 2022

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