Having an eye examination at home
If you or someone you care for has a physical or mental disability or illness which means you are unable to leave your home unaccompanied, you're entitled to an eye examination at home. This also includes people living in residential or care homes.
Arranging a home eye examination
You can arrange for an optometrist to visit your home to carry out, as far as possible, a full eye examination. You can contact your usual optician to find out if they can 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.
However, not all optometrists offer home eye tests so if your usual optometrist doesn’t offer this service, they should be able let you know of other optometrists locally who do offer home eye tests. Your GP may also be able to tell you which optometrists in your area provide eye examinations at home.
Alternatively, depending on where you live, you can contact:
- NHS England on 0300 311 22 33 or email [email protected]
- Wales Eye Care Services
- NHS Inform Scotland
- Health and Social Care Northern Ireland
In some areas you can also find these details from libraries, Citizen's Advice bureaux and GP surgeries, or you can search on the websites above or 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.
If you're 60 or over, you qualify for a free NHS eye examination and will not have to pay for your eye test at home. If you're under 60, you may still be entitled to a free eye test, but this depends on your circumstances. In Scotland eye examinations are free for everyone.
The optometrist will be able to explain exactly what you are entitled to when you phone to arrange your 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 performs the test. A full eye examination will take longer in your own home due to the need to set up equipment.
During your eye examination you can expect the optometrist to ask a lot of questions about your general health, lifestyle, the quality of your vision and any glasses you wear. This is called "taking a history". These questions are very important and help give the optometrist a background to your eye health and identify any possible problems.
The examination will take approximately 30 to 60 minutes and should include the following (the order may vary):
- A test of your level of eyesight - you'll 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'll 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.
- Depending on your age, medical and family history and symptoms you may be having you may 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 doesn't hurt but will probably make you jump.
Results of your eye test
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'll then be given either a prescription for new glasses or a statement saying that new glasses aren't required.
If the optometrists think 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, don't be afraid to ask if you can see some more. If you have old frames that you'd like to use, again ask the optometrist to inspect them to see if they're 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.
You can change your mind about the purchase within seven days of the order without the need to explain why. This is called a cooling off period and applies to any spectacles purchased during a home visit that are over £35.
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. It's important to give the optometrist as much notice as possible if you must rearrange the appointment.
If you have any problems following your eye examination
If you have any problems with your eyes or glasses following your eye examination, contact the optometrist and let them know. For example, if you find that your new spectacles are not working well for you, then the optometrist will be able to check what the problem may be and help to find a solution. It is not unusual to take a week or two to get used to a new spectacle prescription, but it is advisable to discuss this with the optometrist so that they can check the prescription and assess the fitting of your new spectacles. Most problems can be resolved quickly and easily.