Free eye tests on offer at Tesco

Universal free eye tests are to be offered by Tesco which has stepped in to offer a service that was free under the NHS until the 1980s...

Universal free eye tests are to be offered by Tesco which has stepped in to offer a service that was free under the NHS until the 1980s.

The free tests for all were scrapped by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in 1988 under a wide-ranging shake-up in the supply of glasses. However, it subsequently emerged that many people were deterred from having an eye test by the cost which today is typically £15-£20.

Now Tesco is stepping in to the shoes of the NHS, the Daily Mail reports, as it opens another front in the battle to win customers with both free eye tests and prescription glasses starting at just £10. Other schemes thought to be under consideration to extend its reach include an internet estate agent business and cut-price legal services.

At the moment, the NHS pays for free tests for children and teenagers in full-time education, those over 60, those on benefits and those who are known to have certain eye conditions.

The new Tesco scheme look set to have dramatic results: when the Scottish Parliament reintroduced a system of free universal eye tests under the NHS in 2006, visits to optometrists increased by 64 %, according to the NHS Information Services Division.

Regular tests are important because they can identify a range of conditions such as glaucoma which could pose serious health risks if left untreated. According to the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) more than two million people in the UK risk losing their sight through treatable eye conditions.

Chief executive of the RNIB, Lesley-Anne Alexander, said: ‘We are delighted that Tesco has decided to provide free eye tests to their customers as well as introducing a low cost range of spectacles.

‘RNIB research suggests that the cost can be a significant barrier to people getting eye tests, so we hope that this landmark decision will encourage many more people to get a their eyes tested regularly.’

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