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NHS optician is still the term most of us associate with their eye healthcare professional.

However, the term is being used less and less within the profession and it is important you know who you are dealing with when you have your eyecare appointment. When you visit an optician, you’ll have your sight tested by an ophthalmic practitioner, which can mean either an optometrist or an ophthalmic medical practitioner.

A ophthalmic practitioner will check the quality of your vision and eye health. Both optometrists and ophthalmic medical practitioners are trained to recognise abnormalities and signs of any eye disease such as cataracts or glaucoma. If necessary, they will refer you on to your GP or an eye clinic for further investigations. They also prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses. Learn more about eye healthcare professionals here.

How often should I have an eye test?

Our eyes rarely hurt when something is wrong with them, so having regular eye tests is important to help detect potentially harmful conditions.

The NHS recommends that you should get your eyes tested every two years (more often if advised by your ophthalmic practitioner or optometrist).

An NHS sight (eye) test is free of charge if you are in one of the eligible groups and your sight test is considered clinically necessary. If the ophthalmic practitioner can’t see a clinical need then you’ll have to pay for the test privately.

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An NHS sight test is free of charge if clinically necessary. It is up to your ophthalmic practitioner to decide whether a sight test is necessary in your case or not. If you ask for a sight test and it is not considered clinically necessary, you may have to pay for it even if you are usually entitled to a free NHS sight test. For more information visit the entitlements and cost section.

After the sight test the person who tested your eyes must give you a copy of your spectacle prescription (whether new or unchanged) or a statement saying that you did not need a prescription; this is a legal requirement. This statement will also say if you are being referred to your GP or ophthalmic hospital.