Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is distinct from the other three countries, as health care and social care services are jointly commissioned.

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The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) is responsible for all commissioning. HSCB also manages the GP contract for primary care, as well as those for GOS, Dental and Pharmaceutical Services. GOS fees are paid via a ring-fenced health and social care budget allocation of almost £5b from the UK government.

The HSCB has contracts with over 270 ophthalmic practices across the region to provide general ophthalmic services for eligible patients. The HSCB also plans and commissions a range of special enhanced services to help manage increasing demands for eye health services.

Thanks to integrated budgets, moving patients from secondary to primary care does not have budget ramifications. This allows HSC Board to more rapidly adopt appropriate services where ophthalmology departments might be challenged by demand and lack of capacity. This capacity-building is in line with NI Health Department’s policy and strategic drivers aimed at expanding capacity and capability in primary care, reducing waiting lists and improving the interface between primary and secondary care.

NHS funded sight tests – who is eligible?

In Northern Ireland, the following groups are eligible for NHS funded sight test:

  • under 16 years of age, or under 19 and in full-time education 
  • aged 60 or over
  • diagnosed with glaucoma or considered to be at risk of glaucoma
  • aged 40 or over and with a close family member diagnosed with glaucoma
  • diagnosed as diabetic
  • registered blind or partially sighted
  • eligible for a Health Service Complex Lens Voucher
  • receive Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • receive Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, or Income Based Employment and Support Allowance
  • have a valid Health Service tax credit exemption certificate
  • have made a Health Service Low Income scheme claim and have a valid Health Service exemption certificate
  • war pensioner who need the sight test because of a disability for which he/she gets a war pension

More information on the NI Direct Government Services website.

Details of NHS general ophthalmic fees and optical voucher values are available here.

A list of enhanced services.


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