The General Ophthalmic Services Activity Statistics revealed a 33 per cent increase in the number of sight tests paid for by health authorities in England and Wales. Over 4.9m tests were paid for in the period from April to September 1999.
Health minister Lord Philip Hunt believes the rise is a result of extending free eye testing to the over-60s. He said: “We believe the eye care of older people is a core function of the NHS. Around five per cent of people tested are referred to hospital ophthalmology departments with signs of eye disease. I believe that the cost of a private sight test was deterring these people from getting their sight tested regularly.”