Optometric or ophthalmology services provided through the public health service are provided free of charge to certain people by optometrists, dispensing opticians and ophtalmologists.
While some of these health professionals are employed directly by the Health Service Executive (HSE), the majority of those providing these services do so on a contract basis. Optometrists (formerly known as ophtalmic opticians) examine your eyes to diagnose vision problems. They use instruments and observation to examine eye health and to test your visual acuity, depth and colour perception and your ability to focus and co-ordinate your eyes. Optometrists can also prescribe spectacles and contact lenses.
Dispensing opticians recommend and dispense spectacle frames, lenses, contact lenses, etc., having considered your prescription, your occupation, lifestyle, hobbies, etc. A dispensing optician cannot prescribe prescription spectacles or contact lenses for you. Instead, they can only dispense and recommend spectacles and contact lenses that would be most suitable for you, given your lifestyle.
Ophthalmologists are physicians who perform eye surgery and diagnose and treat eye diseases and injuries. Ophthalmologists can also examine eyes and prescribe spectacles and contact lenses.
The Treatment Benefit Scheme is operated by the Department of Social Protection. Under this scheme, you may qualify for Dental Benefit, Optical Benefit, contact lenses, and hearing aids on the basis of your PRSI contributions.
For people with diabetes aged 12 or over, the National Diabetic Retinal
Screening Programme offers free, regular screening for diabetic retinopathy, a
complication of diabetes that can damage eyesight. For more information see diabeticretinascreen.ie.
The HSE provides optical services free of charge to certain groups. These services may be provided by HSE staff or by private practitioners.
Medical card holders are entitled to a free examination and any necessary standard spectacles once every two years (more often if required in certain medical circumstances). All examinations and dispensing require approval from the Local Health Office.
Pre-school children and national school children referred from child health service and school health service examinations who are discovered to have sight problems are referred to the appropriate consultant for treatment. If this treatment is carried out at the out-patient department of a public hospital, the service is free and no hospital charges have to be paid. Services in these circumstances, will continue to be provided until the child has reached the age of 16.
If you don't qualify for free optical services under one of the groups above, the Treatment Benefit Scheme may cover you and your dependent spouse for certain free optical services. If you do not have enough social insurance contributions, you may have to pay for these services.
You may be able to claim tax relief for medical expenses on specific optical treatments. These optical treatments must be prescribed by a practitioner. Read more about taxation and medical expenses here.
You can check that your practitioner is registered with the relevant body. If you wish to make a complaint about a practitioner, you should contact the appropriate regulatory body.
The Department of Social Protection has a list of
available Opticians under the Treatment Benefits Scheme.
Department of Social Protection
St. Oliver Plunkett Road
Tel:(074) 916 4480
Locall:1890 400 400
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.