NHS Laser Eye Surgery - Are You Eligible? (2023)

Each year, more people are opting for laser eye surgery as a means of correcting their vision, saving them the time, effort and money associated with finding and purchasing the right glasses or contact lenses.

Despite its growing popularity, laser eye surgery remains relatively expensive and on average laser eye surgery costs around £1,000 per eye.

Laser eye surgery is available for free on the NHS, however it is only offered in exceptional circumstances meaning many will not meet the eligibility criteria and will have to undergo the procedure at a private clinic instead.

NHS Laser Eye Surgery - Are You Eligible? (1)

With the cost of laser eye surgery starting from as much as £2,175 per eye, having the procedure on the NHS can seem very attractive because of the huge cost savings you can make. While the NHS do perform laser eye surgery, you are unlikely to qualify for the treatment as it is only available to those who really need it.

The NHS will only offer laser eye surgery to individuals with conditions that can lead to blindness if left untreated. People who simply want laser eye surgery to correct refractive errors such as myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness) and astigmatism will not be eligible for NHS-funded treatment.

(Video) Who is Eligible for Laser Eye Surgery on the NHS

This is because the NHS deems laser eye surgery for these conditions as a cosmetic procedure rather than a medical one. Treating refractive errors with laser eye surgery is therefore considered a waste of NHS resources since alternative treatments such as glasses and contact lenses can successfully correct vision to the same degree of accuracy as surgery.

What Conditions Can Be Treated On The NHS?

The NHS will only offer to perform laser eye surgery on individuals who suffer from conditions that can lead to permanent vision loss if not surgically operated on. These conditions include:

  • Diabetic retinopathy: this is a complication of diabetes, in which high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye. These vessels bleed into the eye, causing blurred vision.

  • Posterior capsule opacification: following cataract surgery, there is a risk that the back of the lens capsule (which holds the artificial lens in position in the eye) can thicken. This leads to cloudy and distorted vision.

  • Some types of wet macular degeneration: this occurs when abnormal blood vessels at the back of the eye leak fluid or blood into the macula. This causes patchy vision, as well as blind spots in the visual field.

  • Recurrent corneal erosion: this occurs when the cornea (the clear part at the front of the eye) has been damaged, and heals with a scar. When you open your eye however, the scar can be ripped off from the cornea causing severe pain and blurred vision. This can happen repeatedly years after the initial damage.

If you believe that you might be eligible for laser eye surgery on the NHS, you should make an appointment with your optometrist (optician). They are specially trained to identify serious conditions of the eye such as wet macular degeneration. If necessary, they will then refer you to a GP or your local hospital eye clinic for further investigations, who will be able to advise you if you are a suitable candidate for NHS-funded laser eye surgery.

It is important to remember that these conditions can be easily treated at a private eye surgery clinic also.

Are There Any Exceptions?

In extremely rare cases the NHS will offer laser eye surgery to people with refractive errors such as myopia (short-sightedness) and hyperopia (long-sightedness), when it is believed that the surgery will lead to a significant improvement in the individual’s quality of life. Such cases include:

  • People who suffer from conditions which make it difficult to put on and remove glasses or contact lenses without assistance, such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

  • People who suffer from epilepsy in which wearing glasses or contact lenses can be extremely dangerous when having a seizure.

  • People who are completely unable to put on and remove glasses or contact lenses due to paralysis of the arms.

(Video) Are You Eligible For Laser Eye Surgery? | Lasik Eyes

Suitable for Laser Eye Surgery? Click your age below to find out!

What Are The Differences In Service Between The NHS And Private Laser Eye Surgery Clinics?

The table below shows the difference in service between getting laser eye surgery on the NHS and at a private clinic:

ServiceNHSPrivate
Short Waiting Times
Newest Technology
Surgeon Contact
Free Aftercare

Waiting times for laser eye surgery at a private clinic are significantly shorter than on the NHS. Whilst you typically only have to wait up to 4 weeks to have surgery at a private clinic following a consultation with an ophthalmologist, you can wait up to 18 weeks for treatment on the NHS following a referral from an optometrist or GP. However, studies have shown that patients are waiting upwards of 15 months for NHS-funded surgery in some parts of the UK.

Both the NHS and most private clinics will possess the latest eye surgery technology, although the NHS might be able to use more advanced equipment due to its access to funding but this will depend on your local NHS trust. If you do have laser eye surgery at a private clinic, it is worth checking with them that they will be using the latest certified technology.

At a private clinic you will meet with your surgeon for the consultation, surgery and post-operative follow-up appointments. On the NHS however, it is unlikely you will see your surgeon until the day of the surgery itself. Since undergoing surgery can be a daunting prospect for many, this does not allow you to build an important relationship with the surgeon.

Both the NHS and most private clinics offer free aftercare to their patients, including follow-up appointments and medication. Whilst this lasts a lifetime on the NHS, some clinics will only offer this service for a limited amount of time following surgery. You should ask your clinic about the terms of their aftercare package, and whether it is included in the price of the surgery.

How Much Does Laser Eye Surgery Cost At A Private Clinic?

If you do not qualify for NHS-funded laser eye surgery then you will need to pay for the treatment yourself at a private clinic. The cost of laser eye surgery can vary depending on the type of treatment you need. The table below shows you the approximate starting price of the different types of laser eye surgery at leading clinics in the UK.

(Video) Am I eligible for Laser Eye Surgery?

Laser Eye Surgery TypeStarting Price (Per Eye)
LASIKFrom £595
LASEKFrom £795
Wavefront LASIK/LASEKFrom £1,195
IntraLASIKFrom £1,495
EpiLASIKFrom £800
PRKFrom £2,175

Laser eye surgery is an expensive procedure and so funding the treatment yourself can be tricky. However most clinics now offer payment plans to make the procedure more affordable, no matter the size of your budget. These plans require you to pay an initial deposit (often between £100 and £500), followed by small fixed monthly payments over a set period of time, typically 12, 24 or 36 months. To find out more about getting laser eye surgery on finance, visit our eye surgery cost page.

Choosing A Private Clinic

Your ability to see is extremely important to your quality of life, and so choosing where to have your laser eye surgery is a hugely important decision. It is worth speaking to your optometrist (optician) as they will usually make some recommendations about clinics in your area. Alternatively, you could carry out your own research by searching for laser eye surgery clinics online.

When choosing a clinic, it is worth answering these questions to ensure you find one that is best for you:

  • Do they perform the type of laser eye surgery that you need?
  • Are their prices and payment plans within your budget?
  • What qualifications and accreditations do their surgeons have?
  • What have previous customers said about their experience with the clinic?
  • Is the clinic easy to get from and to?

For more advice about how to choose a private clinic, visit our guide to the best laser eye surgery clinics in the UK.

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(Video) What treatment is available for cataract in the NHS?

FAQs

What would make you not eligible for laser eye surgery? ›

So, the types of conditions that stop people from having laser eye surgery are divided up into eye conditions where people have either severe dry eye, or any other abnormality of the shape of the cornea such as keratoconus.

How do I know if I qualify for laser eye surgery? ›

Who is it suitable for? Laser eye surgery is suitable for most people over 18. Ideally your eye prescription will have stayed more or less the same for about 2 years. Lens surgery may be more suitable if you have a high spectacle prescription or later in life.

Can I get NHS discount on laser eye surgery? ›

It depends on what eye condition you have. Laser surgery is available on the NHS for eye conditions that, without treatment, can lead to loss of vision.

Do you have to have a stable prescription for laser eye surgery? ›

It is important that patients have a stable prescription when opting for laser eye surgery and it is for that reason that many patients are not suitable until the age of 18.

What is the prescription limit for laser eye surgery? ›

Typically, eye doctors will set their limits to +6 for farsightedness, -12 for nearsightedness, and 6 diopters for astigmatism. However, not all laser strengths are the same, so there's some wiggle room.

What prescription is too low for laser eye surgery? ›

While it can vary, a typical Laser Eye Surgery clinic will qualify patients for LASIK treatment from -0.5 D to -8.0 D myopia. With a prescription of below 0.5 D, people only rarely require glasses, so LASIK is usually not recommended unless the patient also has some degree of astigmatism.

Can you be denied LASIK? ›

You have certain eye conditions. Additional eye conditions may not disqualify you from LASIK, but they do need to be reviewed by your eye doctor. Conditions like blepharitis, large pupils, thin corneas, previous refractive surgery, and dry eyes have the potential to disqualify you from LASIK.

What makes you a candidate for laser eye surgery? ›

LASIK is FDA-approved for people aged 18 and older who have achieved ocular maturity. A stable prescription, meaning your prescription hasn't changed for at least two consecutive years. It is important for eyes to be generally healthy, free of diseases, injuries, and infections.

Is it hard to qualify for LASIK? ›

Must be 18 years or older. Must be free of eye disease, such as glaucoma, cataracts, keratoconus, and certain types of herpes. Must have reliable vision for a year prior to the procedure (this can be in the form of glasses or contact lenses) Must have proper corneal thickness.

Is laser eye surgery free in UK? ›

Conditions treated by laser eye surgery for free by the NHS

Only patients suffering from debilitating sight disorders which can lead to blindness are the only suitable candidates for free laser eye surgery on the NHS.

How much does eye laser cost in UK? ›

The prices for laser eye surgery will vary dependent on different providers but on average laser eye surgery costs between £1200 to £1700 per eye.

What is the success rate of laser eye surgery UK? ›

The Success Rate of Laser Eye Surgery is Over 99%

Can someone with astigmatism get laser eye surgery? ›

Yes. Laser eye surgery can fix astigmatism. The process is simple. Ultra-precise lasers are programmed to make the front surface (cornea) of the eye more symmetrical by reshaping it.

Can you get LASIK with 8 prescriptions? ›

The Prescription You Need for Laser Eye Surgery

The average refractive prescription that qualifies for laser eye surgery is: Nearsighted ness up to -8.0 diopters. Astigmatism up to -3.0 diopters. Nearsightedness with astigmatism up to -9.0 diopters.

Can you get LASIK if your prescription is too strong? ›

Your prescription must be within a certain range

While LASIK can be used to correct many vision problems, to achieve the best results, your prescription should not be too high (whether you are nearsighted, farsighted, or suffer from astigmatism).

Can laser eye surgery give you 20 10 vision? ›

Eyes with lower preoperative corneal astigmatism are more likely to achieve 20/10 or better UDVA postoperatively. A significant improvement in the number of eyes with 20/10 or better from 3 months to 12 months after LASIK might be unique to topography-guided treatment.

Is it worth getting LASIK for low prescription? ›

LASIK is accurate to around a quarter to a half diopter of treatment on average. This makes it possible to treat low prescriptions and gain some benefit. The happiest patients are often the ones with the higher prescriptions because they had more to gain from the laser procedure.

Is 50 too old for LASIK? ›

The good news is that no one is too mature for laser vision correction. You may be able to schedule LASIK after 50 years old. You should know that not everyone is a candidate for LASIK.

Why do more people not get LASIK? ›

There are other types of refractive surgery that is often better than LASIK in these patients. However, the biggest reason more people (who are young and good candidates) do not get LASIK is the out-of-pocket expense: it is almost never paid for by insurance!

Is LASIK worth it over 40? ›

But the answer is generally yes – LASIK is worth it after 40. LASIK is safe and effective for patients older than 40 and produces the long-term value that this refractive surgery is known for.

Who is a good candidate for laser surgery? ›

LASIK tends to be best for individuals who are nearsighted. It also works for patients with farsightedness and astigmatism as well. Generally speaking, LASIK can correct -11 diopters of nearsightedness, +5 diopters for farsightedness, and 5 diopters for astigmatism.

Can I get laser eye surgery if I have cataracts? ›

The short answer is no. Eye surgeons use laser eye surgery to correct refractive errors such as short-sightedness, long sightedness, and astigmatism. They cannot use it to remove cataracts.

Does LASIK last forever? ›

While the effects of LASIK surgery are permanent, the benefits can decrease over time. For most patients, the results of LASIK will last a lifetime. About 10-12% of patients nationwide will need an enhancement surgery because of anatomical changes to the eye/eyes.

Can I drive after laser eye surgery UK? ›

After LASIK laser eye surgery, most patients can return to work within 24 hours and drive within this same time frame.

Is it worth to do laser eye surgery? ›

For most, the answer can be a resounding yes! LASIK is not a good idea for everyone, and results have been known to vary due to many factors. However, if you are indeed a strong candidate, the results can be life-changing. A consultation with your optometrist will shine more light on your specific risks and benefits.

Are you awake during laser eye surgery? ›

A common concern among potential LASIK patients is whether they will be awake during the procedure. Yes—patients are awake during LASIK. However, there is no need to worry if you accidentally blink or move your eyes during the surgery.

Is laser eye surgery painful? ›

Fortunately, LASIK eye surgery is not painful. Right before your procedure, your surgeon will place numbing eye drops into both of your eyes. While you may still feel a little bit of pressure during the procedure, you should not feel any pain.

Is laser eye surgery worth it long term? ›

Improve Vision

Studies show that around 95% of patients who undergo LASIK surgery enjoy better eyesight. It is an outpatient procedure that can help improve your eye health. Also, the results are expected to be long-lasting.

Is laser eye surgery better than glasses? ›

Although both LASIK and glasses can improve your vision, glasses will not keep your sight from getting worse. In almost all cases, you will need to get a new lens prescription every few years. Eventually, this could cost a significant amount of money. LASIK certainly has a higher upfront price than glasses.

Is it better to correct astigmatism with laser surgery or lens replacement? ›

Patients with astigmatism who are over 55 may be better suited to lens exchange surgery, rather than laser eye surgery. During lens exchange or cataract surgery, the eye's natural lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. Toric lenses are a type of replacement lens that can correct astigmatism.

What does light look like with astigmatism? ›

Astigmatism can distort lights in several ways, and instead of a clear image, you might see: Streaky lights. Haloed lights. Blurry lights.

What is the oldest age for laser eye surgery? ›

The good news is that there is no age limit for LASIK if your eyes are healthy. We have treated patients across a wide age range with great success, including patients in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond.

Can you get LASIK with any vision? ›

Your lens prescription is within a certain range

The FDA has approved LASIK for patients with up to approximately +6.00 diopters of farsightedness, -12 diopters of nearsightedness, and 6.00 diopters of astigmatism.

Does laser cover under insurance? ›

Typically, all types of refractive surgeries, including LASIK are excluded from the standard health insurance policies as it is an elective/cosmetic procedure that is not medically necessary.

Is laser eye surgery covered in insurance? ›

Does the LASIK Eye Surgery Covered by Insurance have any Conditions? Every eye laser surgery insurance coverage comes with a set of conditions. For example, LASIK eye surgery will be covered under a medical insurance plan only if: The refractive error is caused by an accident or injury and needs corrective eye surgery.

Do you see better with LASIK or glasses? ›

Lasik, on the other hand, will correct astigmatism by reshaping the cornea, eliminating the irregular shape of the cornea permanently. As a result, patients with astigmatism frequently notice their vision is better after LASIK than it ever was with contacts or glasses.

Can you see better with LASIK than glasses? ›

Laser vision correction actually corrects astigmatism, it does not compensate for the refractive error in a similar manner to glasses and contacts. As a result, patients with astigmatism frequently notice better vision with LASIK than with contacts or glasses.

Can I get LASIK instead of glasses? ›

In general, most people who have laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) eye surgery achieve 20/20 vision or better, which works well for most activities. But most people still eventually need glasses for driving at night or reading as they get older.

Does LASIK hurt? ›

Is LASIK Eye Surgery Painful? Fortunately, LASIK eye surgery is not painful. Right before your procedure, your surgeon will place numbing eye drops into both of your eyes. While you may still feel a little bit of pressure during the procedure, you should not feel any pain.

Is laser eye surgery cosmetic? ›

Laser eye surgery is not a cosmetic procedure and it is not a medically necessary procedure. Most patients who undergo laser eye surgery wish to avoid the use of spectacles or contact lenses because it does not suit their occupation, lifestyle or sporting interests.

How long does LASIK last for? ›

While the effects of LASIK surgery are permanent, the benefits can decrease over time. For most patients, the results of LASIK will last a lifetime. About 10-12% of patients nationwide will need an enhancement surgery because of anatomical changes to the eye/eyes.

What is the difference between LASIK and Lasik Plus? ›

While LASIK is one form or technique of laser vision correction, there are differences in the way the epithelial flap can be created during the LASIK procedure. At LasikPlus, our expert LASIK surgeons only perform 100% bladeless LASIK as it allows more patients to be candidates for LASIK and facilitates quick recovery.

What is astigmatism in your eye? ›

Astigmatism is a common eye problem that can make your vision blurry or distorted. It happens when your cornea (the clear front layer of your eye) or lens (an inner part of your eye that helps the eye focus) has a different shape than normal. The only way to find out if you have astigmatism is to get an eye exam.

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