About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides information on NHS General Ophthalmic Services eye examinations and related findings for financial year 2020 to 2021 with comparisons to previous years. It does not report on General Practitioners and hospital eye examinations activities.

These statistics are affected by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak. Routine eye care services were suspended in a domiciliary setting (patients' own homes, day centres and residential centres) from 13 March 2020 and in practice premises from 23 March 2020 due to COVID-19. Emergency eyecare treatment centres were operational initially, before community optometry practice premises resumed the provision of face-to-face emergency and essential eye care from 29 June 2020, whilst continuing to manage patients remotely where possible. From 13 July 2020 practices were permitted to increase their provision and start to meet outstanding care where capacity allowed. Then from 3 August 2020, routine eye care in practices as well as patients' own homes resumed and from 7 September 2020, face-to-face domiciliary eye care in day centres and residential centres resumed.

Main points

  • In financial year 2020 to 2021 just under 1.5 million eye examinations were performed by optometrists/ophthalmic medical practitioners working in Scotland. This is 700,000 less than in financial year 2019 to 2020, a reduction of 32.2%.
Image caption Number of NHS funded eye examinations in Scotland, from financial year 2006 to 2007 to 2020 to 2021
Chart shows the number of eye examinations in Scotland by year from 2006/07 to 2020/21. The graph shows an upward trend from just over 1.5 million in 2006/07 to 2.3 million in 2018/19, then a decrease to just under 1.5 million in 2020/21.

Source: Ophthalmic payment system: 2006/07 to 2016/17 (OPTIX), 2017/18 to 2020/21 (Ophthalmic Data Warehouse).

  • Most patients attending for an eye examination (93.3%) were managed within primary care optometry and not referred for further investigation.
  • 72.3% of claims were for regular eye examinations (primary eye examinations). The others were for emergency, additional or follow-up care (supplementary eye examinations).
  • Clinical conditions were recorded during the eye examination. Cataracts (22.0%) was the most common of all the recorded clinical conditions.


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 11 October 2022.

General enquiries

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

Media enquiries

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

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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: 13 June 2022
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