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NHS eye test numbers in England fall for first time since records began

NHS eye test numbers in England fall for first time since records began

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Without light there is no sight – and as we get older our eyes require progressively more light to see clearly. The average 60 year-old requires three times more light than a 20 year-old to see with the same clarity. In addition, older eyes are more prone to degradation in visual acuity. Given an ageing population, one would imagine that the demand for free NHS sight tests in England is on a steady upward curve.

It comes as a huge surprise then to discover that, for the first time since records began in 2002-3, the total number of NHS sight tests taken in England has dropped year on year, and that the predominant reason is a fall in the number of over 60s taking the state-funded examination. Over 60s represented 43.2 % of all tests in 2014-15 compared to 44.4% in 2012-13, falling for two consecutive years.

The yearly report – General Ophthalmic Services / Activity Statistics: England – also reveals that the number of younger people taking the test is on the up. Children up to 15 and students 16-18 both showed a rise over the previous year.

It would seem that education around eye health awareness is paying dividends among a younger audience. But what does it tell us about the attitude of older people? Perhaps for once age should take a cue from the experience of youth….


  1. Health & Social Care Information Centre
    General Ophthalmic Services Activity Statistics, England 2014-2015.
  2. The Optician:
    First fall in NHS sight test numbers since records began.


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