About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides information on NHS General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) eye examinations and related findings for 2021/22 with comparisons to previous years. It does not report on General Practitioners and hospital eye examinations activities.

During the period covered by this report, there were no major restrictions to the provision of GOS and NHS optical vouchers.  However, the data should be considered in the wider context of the COVID-19 pandemic during this period, including the significant infection prevention and control measures, when compared to previous years.

Main points

  • In 2021/22 just over 2.2 million eye examinations were undertaken in Scotland, an increase of 49.3% compared to 2020/21.
Image caption Number of NHS funded eye examinations, Scotland, by year; 2006/07 – 2021/22
  • Most patients attending for an eye examination were managed within primary care optometry and not referred for further investigation (93.4%).
  • 4% of claims were for regular eye examinations (primary eye examinations). The others were for emergency, additional or follow-up care (supplementary eye examinations).
  • Clinical conditions were recorded during the eye examination. Cataracts was the most common of all the recorded clinical conditions (16.0%).


NHS General Ophthalmic Services in Scotland are provided by eye care professionals who use a wide variety of tests and procedures to examine the eyes of a patient during an eye examination. There are a number of possible outcomes following the examination including:

  • no medical or corrective action needs to be taken;
  • a prescription for spectacles / contact lenses needs to be issued;
  • treatment for an ocular condition is prescribed and followed up by the practitioner;
  • repeat examinations or procedures are conducted to refine a hospital referral, or to rebook for continual monitoring in the community;
  • referral to the patient’s General Practitioner with general health concerns;
  • referral for specialist ophthalmic care by a hospital consultant.

In April 2010 and October 2018, changes in legislation reduced the frequency and circumstances under which a primary examination can be undertaken. If these conditions are not met, only a supplementary examination can be claimed for payment.

In October 2018, a new enhanced supplementary eye examination was introduced, for when the review appointment requires the pupils to be dilated. Reason codes have also been revised (see Ophthalmic Report for further information).

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 19 September 2023.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please contact phs.dental-info@phs.scot.

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If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 07 October 2022
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