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NHS optician is still the term most of us associate with their eye healthcare professional.

However, the term is being used less and less within the profession and it is important you know who you are dealing with when you have your eyecare appointment. When you visit an optician, you'll have your sight tested by an ophthalmic practitioner, which can mean either an optometrist or an ophthalmic  medical practitioner. 

A ophthalmic practitioner will check the quality of your vision and eye health. Both optometrists and ophthalmic medical practitioners are trained to recognise abnormalities and signs of any eye disease such as cataracts or glaucoma. If necessary, they will refer you on to your GP or an eye clinic for further investigations. They also prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses. Learn more about eye healthcare professionals here.

It is recommended that you visit an ophthalmic practitioner for a sight test every two years, or sooner if you've been asked to do so. This is important because an eye examination can detect potentially blinding eye conditions. It is easy to neglect the eyes because they rarely hurt when there is a problem. In many cases it is not possible to restore the vision that has been lost, but it is sometimes possible to stop or slow down the loss of vision. 

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An NHS sight test is free of charge if clinically necessary. It is up to your ophthalmic practitioner to decide whether a sight test is necessary in your case or not. If you ask for a sight test and it is not considered clinically necessary, you may have to pay for it even if you are usually entitled to a free NHS sight test. For more information visit the entitlements and cost section.

After the sight test the person who tested your eyes must give you a copy of your spectacle prescription (whether new or unchanged) or a statement saying that you did not need a prescription; this is a legal requirement. This statement will also say if you are being referred to your GP or ophthalmic hospital.