Is Laser Eye Surgery Available On The NHS?
There is really no clear cut answer as to whether laser eye surgery is available on the NHS. In unique circumstances, refractive errors such as near-sightedness (myopia), far-sightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism can be treated with NHS funding.
However, as a general rule, if your condition can be adequately managed with glasses or contact lenses, it is unlikely that your vision would be corrected though laser eye treatment on the NHS.
|Is laser eye surgery covered on the NHS?||No. Unless a person has an eye condition that can lead to blindness|
|Conditions treated||Diabetic Retinopathy/Wet Macular Degeneration/Severe Cataracts/Corneal diseases|
|Is long or short sightedness covered?||No|
|How much will laser eye surgery cost me at a private clinic?||£595-£2400 per eye|
Why isn’t laser eye surgery available on the NHS?
“Funding decisions are taken by local NHS bodies after considering the clinical effectiveness of the procedure and whether it represents value for money for the NHS.” – NHS guidelines
Although LASIK and LASEK have excellent success rates, it is thought that the same end result can be achieved with glasses or contact lenses. Therefore the NHS concludes that treatment for refractive errors does not justify the expense of NHS resources in terms of cost and surgeon allocation.
In 2004 The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) introduced stricter limitations in terms of who was and who wasn’t entitled to NHS care. NICE has further guidelines and findings on their website.
Who can have NHS laser eye surgery?
Only 5% of all refractive treatments are provided by the NHS, these are rare cases where the well-being of the patient is expected to be drastically improved due to laser eye surgery. Exceptional circumstances may include:
- Those with a condition with such as Parkinson’s that reduces the ability to put on or remove contact lenses or glasses due impaired movement.
- Those who have quadriplegia or tetraplegia and are not able to put on remove glasses or contact lenses without help.
- Those who have a conditions such as epilepsy where wearing glasses may increase risk during a seizure.
These are examples of exceptional cases to give an idea of who may qualify. Seek the advice of your doctor or optometrist if you think you may be eligible for NHS laser eye surgery.
The remaining 95% of treatments will be performed at private clinics for typical amounts of vision loss and impairment.
NHS eye surgery
Surgery is available on the NHS for patients suffering from eye conditions which if left untreated could result in permanent damage to the eye or even blindness. Lasers can successfully treat a number of serious eye conditions and are not related to LASIK or LASEK procedures. Some of the most common issues treated by NHS funded laser eye surgery include:
- Cataracts: a clouding of the lens caused by the gradual build-up of protein or yellow-brown pigment.
- Diabetic retinopathy: blood vessel damage caused by type one diabetes.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): erosion of the retina which affects central vision.
- Problems relating to corneal degeneration or corneal erosion.
These conditions cannot be corrected with the use of glasses and contact lenses, and can gradually get worse, so the NHS will extend their laser eye services to patients suffering from these (and other) degenerative conditions.
Can I get Cataract Surgery on the NHS?
Yes, cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgical treatment in the UK and has been performed on the NHS since the 1940’s. If you are suffering from the symptoms of cataract such as a cloudy lens, or glare and halos at night, you should seek the advice of your optometrist who can advise you on the condition and surgical options to improve eyesight.
NHS Trust Laser Eye Clinics
Some NHS trusts operate their own laser eye clinics, either within hospitals or as standalone facilities.
Patients who don’t qualify for NHS funded surgery can apply to undergo a procedure for a fee. This can sometimes prove to be a more cost effective option than private treatment. The fees charged for these services go back into the trust, helping to improve the level of care available throughout the region. Examples of such a clinics are:
- St James’ Laser Vision, located in the St James University Hospital in Leeds
- Bristol Laser Vision, Bristol Eye Hospital
- Centre for Vision, Manchester eye hospital
If you are not eligible for laser eye surgery on the NHS you may be entitled to glasses to correct vision or you could opt for private surgery with one of the many private clinics.