Free Eye Tests to Continue

Community review to build on successful decade of free eye examinations.

Free eye examinations are to continue in Scotland, with a review of community optometry services to make further improvements, Health Secretary Shona Robison announced today.

The review will consider the role that community eye services play within the wider NHS and whether more can be done to improve the level of care for patients.

It comes a decade on from the successful introduction of free NHS eye examinations, which has seen a 29% increase in the number of tests carried out since 2006.

Over two million eye examinations a year are now carried out in Scotland, providing both a sight test and an eye health check that can identify treatable conditions at an early stage in their development.

Announcing the review, Ms Robison said: “The free NHS eye examination has proven to be hugely successful in encouraging more people to attend their local optometrist – with over a half a million more people a year now getting an eye exam than in 2006.

“Community eye-care services play a vital role in delivering these tests and will become even more important as we face the challenges of an ageing population, with more sight threatening conditions such as diabetes and glaucoma.

“Let me be clear that we are committed to retaining free NHS eye examinations, and the review won’t change this.

"Ten years on, the time is now right to look again at how our community eye-care services are working – particularly in the context of the developments we are making to primary care.

“Many optometrists can now, with the appropriate training, manage the treatment of certain eye conditions and are able to prescribe treatments to patients instead of having to make a GP or hospital referral. The review will consider whether more could be done to make best use of the clinical skills of optometrists, streamlining services for patients.

“We also want to use the opportunity of the review to learn more about which patients are taking up the offer of the free eye examination and whether more can be done to reduce health inequalities by encouraging uptake amongst vulnerable groups or in deprived areas.”

The review group will be chaired by Dr Hamish Wilson, CBE, the current Vice-Chair of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, and made up of a range of clinical and non-clinical professionals and public stakeholders across health and social care.

Dr Wilson said: “I am looking forward to chairing this important and timely review of community eyecare services. I have witnessed the positive impact implementation of the new - and free - eye examination has had for the people of Scotland since its introduction in 2006. I believe that now, ten years on, we have a great opportunity to look at what else our community Optometrists can help deliver to enhance further patient care throughout the country.”

Nicola McElvanney, Chair of Optometry Scotland said: “Since 2006, the profession has demonstrated commitment and desire to deliver the best possible care for patients in Scotland. This has seen a shift in the balance of care which provides more patients with access to care or appropriate triage for eye conditions outside of a hospital or GP setting. This is a major success for patients and the NHS.

“There are existing models of good practice across Scotland; the review provides the opportunity to adopt the best across the country and in doing so, reduce the capacity issues in secondary care. The outcome we are all committed to is one which sees patients being able to access the most appropriate care close to their home, ensuring that only those patients who must been seen in a hospital setting are referred there.”

The review is scheduled to report to Scottish Ministers by the end of the year.

Notes to editors

In 2006/7 the number of eye examinations carried out was approximately 1.51 million. In 2014/15 this had risen to 2.04 million.

Anyone who wishes to share their view on current community eyecare services in Scotland can do so by contacting the Review team by email at the following address:

More information is available on the Scottish Government website:


Media enquiries

Back to top