More and more people are opting to undergo laser eye surgery these days to correct vision problems. It is a quick and relatively painless procedure known to produce great results, eliminating the need to wear glasses or contact lenses for many people with common refraction problems.
However, for many people, the possibility of spending a lot of money on having their eyesight corrected can be quite daunting. Some patients, after all, have had to shell out as much as £3,000 to undergo laser treatment (see our laser eye surgery price guide here). This brings us to the question: Is it possible for UK residents to get laser eye surgery done at an affordable rate or even for free on the NHS?
Laser eye surgery is available on the NHS but unfortunately only for a select few. Laser eye surgery for long and short-sightedness or blurred vision caused by astigmatism is not available on the NHS in the UK at the moment and there is no plans for it to be introduced at a later stage at present.
The reason for the reluctance to correct such sight problems on the NHS is due to the fact surgeons say these conditions can be treated using other means such as glasses and contact lenses.
In fact, they consider such vision restoring operations as cosmetic rather than medical. Because long and short sightedness are not deemed to cause any serious mental stress, they doesn’t fall under the category of psychologically damaging either (whereas other ‘cosmetic’ operations such as facial reconstruction or breast augmentation may). Other senior figures in the NHS also argue that because laser eye surgery may need to be repeated in the future it is not a particularly good use of public sector funds.
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. Among these conditions is diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes where high blood sugar levels cause the blood vessels in the retina of the eye to leak or to become blocked. The retina is the light-sensitive part of the eye and retinal damage will eventually lead to blindness. Laser eye surgery is offered to patients in order to stop further damage to the retina.
Patients with cataracts and some types of macular degeneration (a painless, age-related condition which can lead to loss of central vision) may also qualify for free laser eye surgery. Cataracts surgery outside of the NHS may cost between £1800 – £3000.