Optical fees in Northern Ireland will be increasing from April 2023, following a decision by the Department of Health.
The new fees will apply to all General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) provided in Northern Ireland, including sight tests and various types of eyewear such as glasses and contact lenses. The fee increase is aimed at ensuring that optical services continue to be sustainable and are able to provide high-quality care to patients.
The new fees will see an increase of 2.7% in the cost of a sight test, bringing it up to £21.84. The fee for a complex sight test will rise to £38.44, an increase of 3.3%. The fee for vouchers to help with the cost of glasses or contact lenses will also increase, with a single-vision voucher increasing to £27.12 and a bifocal or varifocal voucher rising to £46.08.
The Department of Health has stated that the increase in fees will help to ensure that optical practices can continue to provide high-quality care to patients, as well as supporting the investment needed to meet the demands of an ageing population with increasingly complex eye care needs.
Optical practices in Northern Ireland have welcomed the decision to increase fees, noting that it will help to support the sustainability of the sector and ensure that patients can continue to access high-quality care. However, some have raised concerns about the impact of the fee increase on patients who may struggle to afford the cost of optical services.
The increase in optical fees in Northern Ireland may have an impact on patients’ ability to access essential eye care services, particularly for those who are on low incomes or who struggle to afford the cost of living. With the cost of living on the rise, any increase in the cost of healthcare services can be a burden for patients, especially those with complex eye care needs who require regular appointments and expensive eyewear.
While the Department of Health has stated that the fee increase is necessary to ensure the sustainability of the sector and to provide high-quality care to patients, it is important to consider the potential impact on patients who may struggle to afford these services. Patients who cannot afford to pay for optical services may delay seeking treatment or may not seek treatment at all, which can lead to worsening eye health and other complications.
It is therefore important for the Department of Health and optical practices to consider ways to support patients who may be impacted by the fee increase, such as offering payment plans or subsidies for those on low incomes. This will help to ensure that all patients can access the care they need, regardless of their financial situation.