Scotland's free eye care policy to be investigated

Researchers will assess whether offering free eye care services in Scotland has been a success.

In April 2006, eye examinations became free in Scotland. The aim of this policy was to encourage a wider use of optometry services and to ensure that the majority of the population benefitted from regular eye examinations.

A team of economists from the University of Aberdeen, lead by Dr Alexandros Zangelidis, will examine data from a large private ophthalmology optician firm based in North East Scotland and the British Household Panel Survey.

The researchers will explore whether more people have had their eyes examined since the introduction of the policy. Researchers will also assess whether individuals from certain socioeconomic groups responded more to the policy, and if patients’ spending on related eye care goods like spectacles changed.

In the past optometrists were underutilised, Dr Zangelidis said. However since the scheme was introduced, ‘the high street optometrists became the first contact point for eye patients,’ he said. 

‘Now [optometrists] do not simply provide a sight test, but a thorough eye examination that enables them to detect eye and other health related problems like glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetes and other conditions.’

‘The results of this study are expected to help in prioritising government health expenditure in relation to free eye examinations in Scotland,’ Dr Zangelidis added.

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