About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides information on NHS General Ophthalmic Services eye examinations and related findings for 2019 to 2020 with comparisons to previous years. It does not report on General Practitioners and hospital eye examinations activities.

It should be highlighted that these statistics are affected by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak. In particular, on the 23 March, the nation entered a period of ‘lockdown’ and all NHS General Ophthalmic Service eye examinations and voucher claims activity were suspended. Therefore, the number of GOS eye examinations undertaken and optical vouchers claimed in March 2020 were considerably lower when compared to both previous months and March 2019. Consequently, this had an impact on the number of eye examinations undertaken and vouchers issued in 2019 to 2020.

Main points

  • In 2019 to 2020 just under 2.2 million NHS funded eye examinations were performed by community optometrists and ophthalmic medical practitioners in Scotland.
Image caption Number of NHS funded eye examinations, Scotland, by year; from 2006/07 to 2019/20

Source: Ophthalmic payment system: 2006/07 to 2016/17 (OPTIX), 2017/18 to 2019/20 (Ophthalmic Data Warehouse).

  • Most patients attending for an eye examination were managed within primary care optometry (93.6%) and not referred for further investigation.
  • Around three in four claims were for initial regular eye examinations (primary eye examinations). The remainder were for emergency, additional or follow-up care (supplementary eye examinations).
  • The most common reason for a supplementary eye examination was ‘Unscheduled Appointments’ (35.8%).
  • Cataracts were the most common of all the clinical conditions recorded (16.4%) during eye examinations.


NHS General Ophthalmic Services

NHS General Ophthalmic Services in Scotland are provided by eye care professionals who use a wide variety of tests and procedures to examine the eyes of a patient during an eye examination. There are a number of possible outcomes following the examination including:

  • no medical or corrective action needs to be taken;
  • a prescription for spectacles / contact lenses needs to be issued;
  • treatment for an ocular condition is prescribed and followed up by the practitioner;
  • repeat examinations or procedures are conducted to refine a hospital referral, or to rebook for continual monitoring in the community;
  • referral to the patient’s General Practitioner with general health concerns;
  • referral for specialist ophthalmic care by a hospital consultant.

In April 2010 and October 2018, changes in legislation reduced the frequency and circumstances under which a primary examination can be undertaken. If these conditions are not met, only a supplementary examination can be claimed for payment.

In October 2018, a new enhanced supplementary eye examination was introduced, for when the review appointment requires the pupils to be dilated. Reason codes have also been revised.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 12 October 2021.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please contact phs.dental-info@phs.scot.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

Requesting other formats and reporting issues

If you require publications or documents in other formats, please email phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

To report any issues with a publication, please email phs.generalpublications@phs.scot.

Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 07 October 2022
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