Having an eye examination at home

If you or someone you care for has a disability or illness which makes it difficult to leave your house, you are entitled to an eye examination at home.

About home eye examinations

You can arrange for an optometrist to visit your home to carry out, as far as possible, a full eye examination. Not all optometrists do this, but your GP or your local Primary Care Trust should be able to tell you which optometrists in your area provide eye examinations at home.

Arranging a home eye examination

If you need an eye examination it may be a good idea to contact your usual optometrist to find out if they are able to visit you at home. It can be useful to see the same optometrist, as they already have a record of your eye problems and will be familiar with your needs and requirements.

If you do not have an optometrist or if your usual optometrist cannot help, then you can telephone your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). Your CCG will keep a list of optometrists in your area who provide home visits and should be able to provide their details.

In some areas you can also find these details from libraries, Citizen's Advice bureaux and GP surgeries . You can also contact NHS Direct 0845 46 47 for details. You may also find details in your telephone directory.

There are a number of private companies that provide eye examinations at your home and you should be able to find their details from the sources listed above.

Cost

If you are 60 or over, you qualify for a free NHS eye examination and will not have to pay anything for your eye test at home. If you are under 60, you may still be entitled to a free eye test, but this depends on your circumstances. The optometrist will be able to explain exactly what you are entitled to when you phone to arrange the appointment.

What to expect

An eye examination at home should include most of the tests that you would expect if you had gone to the optometrist's practice. However, because the test is being done in your home, there may be slight changes in the way that the optometrist perfoms the test. If so, do not hesitate to ask the optometrist about any aspect of the test that seems different or that has apparently been missed out. 

  • A full eye examination should take approximately 20 to 30 minutes and should include the following (the order may vary):
  • A test of your level of eye sight - you will be asked to read letters on a chart or to match symbols.
  • Checks of the outer eye to confirm the outside of your eye is healthy and that your eyes react to light
  • Checks of the inner eye - a light will be shone into your eye and you will be asked to look in different directions.
  • Tests to confirm that the muscles that control the movement of the eyes are working well.
  • Test to work out if you need to wear glasses and what prescription these glasses need to be.

If you:

  • are over 40
  • are over 25 and of African-Caribbean origin
  • have a close relative with glaucoma
  • are diabetic
  • then you should also have:
  • a basic field of vision test - to test your side (peripheral) vision
  • an eye pressure test - again there are several tests for this, but the most common one involves puffs of air blown at the front of each eye. It does not hurt, but will probably make you jump.

These last two checks may be charged for separately.

Outcomes

Your optometrist will discuss the results of your eye test and the health of your eyes with you. You may want to write down brief details of these results for you to keep. You will then be given either a prescription for new glasses or a statement saying that new glasses are not required. 

If the optometrists thinks there is any reason for you to be seen at the hospital because of an eye condition, they will arrange for you to be referred to the right ophthalmologist (hospital eye doctor) for your condition.

If you need to change your glasses

Your optometrist will bring a selection of new frames, in a range of styles and prices, for you to try on. If you don't find a style that you like or that suits your budget, do not be afraid to ask if you can see some more. If you have old frames that you would like to use again ask the optometrist to inspect them to see if they are still suitable. Always ask for a statement of the exact cost of the frames and lenses before agreeing to go ahead with the order. You may be entitled to help with the cost of NHS glasses so remember to ask the optometrist about this.

When your spectacles are ready the optometrist will contact you again to arrange delivery. The person who delivers your glasses should make sure they fit you comfortably.

Always keep a record of the optometrist's name and phone number in case you need to contact them again.

About letting a 'stranger' into your home

When you arrange an appointment to see an optometrist, please ensure you find out their name and ask for identification before you let them into your home. You may find it helpful if you have a relative, friend or carer with you when the optometrist comes to visit.

If you have a complaint

Always try to resolve any problems with your optometrist before going any further. Sometimes clear and accurate communication can clear up problems without causing too much aggravation to both sides. However, if this is not an option then, there are some alternatives.

If the practice is part of a group, ask the practice manager for the name and address of the head office where you can send your complaint.

If your complaint has still not been resolved, contact:

Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) 
PO Box 4685 
London 
SE1 6ZB 
Tel: 020 7261 1017

Useful contacts

Finding out more

One reaction to being uncertain about what may be affecting your vision is to try and get as much information as possible. In some cases this may be easy, particularly if the optometrist has told you that you may have a particular eye condition. 

However, if the optometrist is not certain what condition is affecting your eyes and has only given you a vague description, it may not be easy to find accurate information until you have been given a diagnosis by a hospital ophthalmologist. 

Obviously, gathering as much information as possible before your hospital appointment is natural and understandable. However, it is always worth bearing in mind that, until the ophthalmologist has examined your eyes and given you a diagnosis, the information you have gathered may not all be relevant to your condition. 

It may be useful before your hospital appointment to plan your visit to the ophthalmology department. In particular, working out some of the questions you may want to ask the ophthalmologist about any eye condition they may find can be a good idea.

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