Is Laser Eye Surgery Available Through the NHS?

The National Health Service (NHS) has long been a uniting fixture of the British people. Founded in the wake of the Second World War in 1948, the NHS has saved the lives of countless people and provided much-needed universal care for decades. But there are some areas that the NHS can’t cover – at least not in all cases.

It is estimated that there are over 1.6 million interactions between patients and the NHS every single day. Despite facing criticism in recent years, largely due to increasing waiting times, the NHS is still held extremely close to the heart of all British people. Its core principle: making healthcare available to all – regardless of wealth – is a sentiment that continues to be prioritised for most.

But what about when it comes to non-essential healthcare? For example, is it possible to have Laser Eye Surgery for free through the NHS? Well, understandably, the simple answer is no (at least, not usually).

In this article, we answer this question in more detail and cover the few circumstances in which Laser Eye Surgery may be considered on the NHS.

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, except for some charges such as prescriptions, dental services, and – crucially for us – optical services.

In recent years, Laser Eye Surgery has become increasingly accessible for more people than ever before; however, it is not usually available through the NHS. That’s because, in most cases, Laser Eye Surgery is considered a non-emergency procedure.

As in other areas of the NHS, treatment to improve your vision is only available where, without care, a condition could cause significant risks to your health. In this case, this means a severe loss of vision.

This essentially means that Laser Eye Surgery is not available for conditions that can be treated “successfully” by other means. For example, common refractive errors such as myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness), and astigmatism can be effectively corrected with glasses and/or contact lenses.

Some NHS Trusts may have their own Laser Eye Surgery clinics; however, treatment at these centres usually still comes at a cost to the patient. Correcting refractive errors that impede your vision is simply not considered an essential treatment. However, as alluded to, there are some cases in which the NHS will perform Laser Eye Surgery at no cost to the patient.

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

Local NHS bodies are in charge of making final decisions on individual cases. They will consider the clinical effectiveness of a procedure and whether it represents value to money for the NHS. In some cases, Laser Eye Surgery will be considered in conditions that can lead to loss of vision, even blindness, without treatment.

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

  • Diabetic retinopathyAn eye disease caused by damage to blood vessels on the retina. It affects up to 80% of patients who have had diabetes for 20 years or more.
  • Thickening of the lens capsule: This can occur after Cataract Surgery and involves the thickening of the “capsule” that the new artificial lens sits in.
  • Some types of macular degeneration: “Wet” macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow in the back of the eye and cause damage to the retina and macula.
  • Some corneal diseases: The NHS treat specific diseases of the cornea, such as recurrent corneal erosions. Corneal erosions are characterised by a loss of tissue in the cornea’s outer layer and often occur due to eye injuries.

These cases are relatively rare and the vast majority of patients interested in Laser Eye Surgery will need to consult with private providers. Luckily, the UK is one of the world leaders for high-quality Laser Eye Surgery.

Finding a Private Clinic for Laser Eye Surgery

If you are considering Laser Eye Surgery to correct your refractive error, there are plenty of clinics to choose from. But with such an abundance of choices, it can be easy to get overwhelmed – especially considering the variety of treatments and prices floating around.

To help, we’ve put together a brief checklist of things to look out for when choosing an honest, reliable, and high-quality Laser Eye Surgery clinic:

  • Experienced surgeons: Are the surgeons well-trained and experienced? The Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth) advise that only registered surgeons with specialist training should carry out Laser Eye Surgery.
  • Recommendations: What do past patients say? Don’t only rely on reviews published by the clinic itself but use independent review sites such as Trustpilot to get an unbiased picture of the clinic.
  • Cost: There’s no getting around it – Laser Eye Surgery is not a cheap procedure. Be aware of clinics offering prices that seem too good to be true. This could mean they are cutting corners elsewhere (or are waiting to spring hidden fees on you!).
  • Results: A clinic is only as good as its results. However, it is important to be cautious about advertised success rates. These are often misleading as they may be based on a small sample of patients with a specific type of prescription. Always ask your prospective clinic about their results treating prescriptions similar to your own.

Is Laser Eye Surgery an Affordable Treatment?

As we alluded to above, Laser Eye Surgery is not cheap. And nor should it be. When it comes to something as important as our vision, we’re sure you’ll agree that all necessary precautions need to be taken to ensure the utmost safety and the best possible outcomes.

Of course, this comes with a cost. The good news is, that most independent clinics and private hospitals are completely transparent in their pricing.

For example, at the London Vision Clinic, you will be given one price that covers every aspect of your treatment, from your initial screening and consultation through to your aftercare. This guarantees that you won’t be caught off guard by surprise fees along the way. Many clinics also offer interest-free finance plans so you can spread the cost of your treatment.

Moreover, while it may not appear so on the surface, over the long term Laser Eye Surgery could even be a more economical alternative to glasses and contact lenses!

Laser Eye Surgery may not be available for free through 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 learn more about your options when it comes to Laser Eye Surgery, why not get in touch with one of our friendly clinic coordinators? Alternatively, Book a Consultation today to find out if you could be suitable for treatment.