Can you get Laser Eye Surgery on the NHS?

The National Health Service has long been the driving force behind the people of Britain.

After nearly 70 years since its launch, the NHS now deals with over 1 million people every 6 hours. Even though it has been the subject of much criticism and controversy over the years, is still largely thought of as a national treasure, and to this day continues to fight for its core principle: making good healthcare available to all — regardless of wealth.

It’s the health service of the people. This is often reflected in its policies such as the decision to impose a 20 percent tax on sugary foods and drinks in its hospitals and health centre cafes. It also introduced yoga and Zumba classes for many of its staff, and in the future, we may even see yoga — if local GPs continue to advocate — being offered as a treatment to some patients.

You may be thinking that with such a progressive approach, the NHS might offer Laser Eye Surgery as a vision correction treatment. And it does.

However, there is a catch. Laser Eye Surgery is available on the NHS, but only for those who really need it.

Why is Laser Eye Surgery not free on the NHS for everyone?

The NHS remains free at the point of use for every UK resident. That is, with the exception of some charges such as prescriptions and dental services, and crucially for us, optical services.

Much like in many other areas in the NHS, treatment to better your vision is only available for conditions which without care could pose dire risks to your health. In this case, that means a severe loss of vision.

The final decision about individual cases is made by local NHS bodies after considering the clinical effectiveness of a procedure and whether or not it represents value for money for the NHS. This means that it’s typically not available for conditions that can be treated “successfully” in other ways. These conditions include common refractive errors such as shortsightedness, longsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia, which have long been treated with glasses and contact lenses.

You may find some NHS trusts have their own Laser Eye Surgery clinics. But usually, they come at a cost to the patient. Correcting refractive errors that impede your vision is not considered an essential treatment — which is true, of course, in terms of your physical health.

But in terms of your quality of life, many feel very differently.

What conditions can be treated with Laser Eye Surgery on the NHS?

Although general vision improvement is typically not something the NHS covers, as mentioned, there are certain conditions that do qualify for Laser Eye Surgery.

These conditions are those that can lead to loss of vision, even blindness, without treatment. And so, they are considered on an individual basis and often completely covered by the NHS.

The conditions for which you may be eligible for Laser Eye Surgery on the NHS include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that consists of damage to blood vessels on the retina at the back of the eye. It affects up to 80 percent of those who have had diabetes for 20 years or more.
  • Thickening of the lens capsule: This is a consequence that can occur after cataract surgery involving the thickening of the “pocket” that the new lens sits in.
  • Some wet macular degeneration: Wet macular degeneration is a chronic eye condition that can cause vision loss due to abnormal blood vessels growing in the eye.
  • Some corneal diseases: The NHS do treat specific diseases of the cornea, such as recurrent corneal erosions. Corneal erosions are losses of tissue in the cornea’s outer layer, and often occur due to injuries or scrapes.

Finding a private clinic for Laser Eye Surgery

If you have a refractive error such as longsightedness and still want to have Laser Eye Surgery, there are many options to choose from.

Sometimes this abundance of choice is not such a great thing as it’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially with the variety of treatments and prices out there.

Luckily, there is help out there that makes it much simpler to find a clinic that is of honest, reliable, and high-quality.

Here’s a brief checklist of areas you should assess when choosing a private clinic for Laser Eye Surgery:

  • Surgeons: What training and experience do its surgeons have? The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) says only registered surgeons with specialist training should carry out Laser Eye Surgery.
  • Recommendations: What do its patients say about it? Don’t only rely on reviews published by the clinic itself but use independent review sites such as Trustpilot to get a unbias idea about the clinic.
  • Cost: Laser Eye Surgery is not a cheap procedure. And so be wary of clinics that offer low-cost treatments and bargain offers as they may be cutting corners, such as using old technology or excluding essential elements like aftercare from its cost.
  • Results: A clinic is only as good as its results. However, advertised success rates are often misleading as they can be based on a small sample size and a specific type of prescription. Read the fine print and ask the clinic if its results are independently verified or published in peer-reviewed literature.

Is Laser Eye Surgery an affordable treatment?

Eye tests, hidden extras, aftercare services; the costs associated with Laser Eye Surgery can seem to quickly rack up. This is typically the case when consulting with high street providers or large chains, but it’s not the way all Laser Eye Surgery clinics do things.

Many independent clinics and private hospitals are transparent in their pricing. Ideally, you’ll be presented with just one cost that covers the whole treatment. This omits the chances of any nasty little surprises popping up along the way. Even better if the clinic offers interest-free finance and extended aftercare following your surgery.

This is, of course, all without considering the comparative costs of Laser Eye Surgery against other vision correction methods like contacts and glasses. Rather surprisingly, though, calculations made on the average cost of glasses reveal Laser Eye Surgery to be a more economical method of vision correction over the long term.

Laser Eye Surgery may not be available for the masses on the NHS, but that doesn’t mean it has to be out of your reach. Weighing up the cost and pros and cons of the treatment against your current method of vision correction is a great place to start.

If you would like to find out more about our pricing or book a consultation at London Vision Clinic, leave us a comment or give us a call us on 020 7224 1005.