Optometry overview

Optometry provides eyecare to local communities through optometry practices situated in high street locations, in supermarkets and in the heart of the most deprived communities. Many are open in evenings and weekends. There are several different types and sizes of practices, ranging from the large chains to smaller independent practices.

Optometry practices are made up of multidisciplinary teams, including optometrists, contact lens opticians, dispensing opticians, optical assistants and technicians and other practice staff.

Practices provide sight tests and associated prescribing and dispensing of suitable glasses, contact lenses and other visual aids. They also examine your eyes to identify any eye conditions or diseases and can manage or treat them, or refer you to other eye health specialists, if necessary.

These services are delivered through two routes – the NHS General Ophthalmic Service (GOS), also known as sight testing service; and through additional locally commissioned extended eyecare services, supporting greater eyecare close to home for people via ‘Optometry First’ services.  

Across Greater Manchester, there are approximately 300 optical practices or associated domiciliary eyecare providers.

NHS General Ophthalmic Service (GOS)

This is the core NHS sight testing service, as commissioned by NHS England and delegated to NHS Integrated Care Boards – such as NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care.

The NHS sight testing service allows patient in eligible categories to access a sight test at an optical practice free at the point of access. Practitioners can find more details within this guidance on General Ophthalmic Services (GOS).

Optometry extended eyecare services

Beyond the NHS sight testing service (or private test where not eligible) additional NHS eye care is provided through locally commissioned extended eyecare services – where optometry practices provide ‘Optometry First’ services focusing on first contact care. These include:

  • Community Urgent Eyecare Service (UES)
  • Integrated cataract service (enhanced referral and post-surgery follow ups)
  • Glaucoma referral filtering services
  • Easy Eye Care (enhanced sight testing service for patients with learning disabilities or autism)

These services are commissioned by NHS Greater Manchester via Primary Eyecare Services – the optometry not-for-profit provider company.

Optometry Provider Board

The Greater Manchester Optometry Provider Board provides the unified voice of optometry. It comprises representatives from all the local optical committees (statutory representative committees) across Greater Manchester, the provider company (Primary Eyecare Services), together with representatives from the University of Manchester Optometry School and NHS Greater Manchester.

The board works closely with the Confederation of Greater Manchester Local Optical Committees, where more useful resources can be found.