Sight care and services

You may be entitled to free Health Service sight tests and other vision-related services. If you are housebound, you can arrange to have a home visit from an optometrist (also known as an optician).

Optometrists

Optometrists carry out sight tests to decide if you need a prescription to improve your vision. They also fit glasses and contact lenses. 

Optometrists are trained to detect eye problems or disease, referring cases when necessary to hospital eye services, including consultant ophthalmologists (eye doctors) and other eye care professionals.

Many optometrists also provide enhanced eye care services tailored to certain eye conditions. For example, if you have a sore or red eye, or if your optometrist is concerned about glaucoma, they can do tests to decide if you need referred to the hospital eye service.

If you have sight loss (otherwise known as a visual impairment), aids may help you make use best of your remaining vision. Low vision aids, such as magnifiers, can be prescribed under the Health Service through ‘low vision clinics’ in many hospitals.

These clinics also offer practical support and advice to help with day-to-day tasks and if needed, can arrange follow up visits at home. Some optometrists also sell magnifiers privately. Talk to your optometrist or ophthalmologist if you are attending the low vision clinic and are struggling with your sight.

Being certified with a visual impairment

If a hospital consultant ophthalmologist certifies that you are severely sight impaired/blind or sight impaired/partially sighted, you are entitled to be certified with a visual impairment with the local Health and Social Care Trust. An Eye Care Liaison Officer will support you in this process.

Certification of visual impairment entitles you to certain concessions, including the Blue Badge scheme and a discount on your TV licence.

Help from Social Services

Services may include:

  • social workers or rehabilitation workers to support you and your family
  • communication skills and training in getting about independently indoors or outside
  • help and advice about health, education, rehabilitation and employment issues
  • equipment and alterations in your home where necessary - you can get advice from an occupational therapist
  • machines for playing talking books
  • training in the use of Braille or Moon

Your local Health and Social Care Trust may have a contract with a voluntary organisation to help provide some of these services.

Other sources of help

Learning to live and work with a visual impairment requires both professional advice and training. There are organisations offering support if you are blind or partially sighted - one of them is the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Other organisations sometimes specialise in one field, such as employment, education or sport. 

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