Press Release   •   Feb 26, 2010 10:03 GMT


Tesco is launching the first universal free eye test service since the 1980s – meaning anyone not entitled to an NHS funded check-up can have one in store completely without charge.

The unprecedented move is expected to result in a substantial increase in the number of people having eye exams. Regular tests are important because they can identify a range of conditions which could pose serious health risks if left untreated. But research has shown that many people are deterred by cost*, with other major retailers currently charging £15-20.

Ashley Hicks, Tesco Director of Pharmacy and Healthcare, said: “This is an important move towards improving the nation’s health. By removing the cost barrier and offering convenient opening hours, we aim to make this important check up as easy as possible for our customers. You can have your free test alongside your weekly shop at any of our 131 in store opticians throughout the UK.”

Lesley-Anne Alexander, Chief Executive of the Royal National Institute of the Blind said: "We are delighted that Tesco has decided to provide free eye tests to their customers as well as introducing a low cost range of spectacles. RNIB research suggests that the cost can be a significant barrier to people getting eye tests, so we hope that this landmark decision will encourage many more people to get a their eyes tested regularly.”

The potential impact of Tesco’s decision is shown by what happened in Scotland when MPs re-introduced universal free eye tests in 2006. According to the NHS Information Services Division, visits to optometrists increased by 64%. Of these, 4% of patients were referred for hospital treatment, highlighting the importance of regular testing.

Anna Turvey, a senior optometrist at Tesco, explained: “Eye examinations aren’t just to see if you need glasses – they can save your life. By viewing the health of the eyes and visual system, opticians can spot serious general health conditions.”

According to the RNIB, more than 2 million people in the UK risk losing their sight through treatable eye conditions**.

To coincide with the move Tesco Opticians is to offer a range of stylish prescription glasses priced at only £10. These are the cheapest prescription glasses available from any opticians chain in the UK.

When Tesco sold spectacles for £10 as a promotion in December, demand for the range became so huge that sales of the frames soared by more than 250%.

Notes to Editors

• Tesco has 131 in store opticians across the UK and has performed more than 3.5 million sight tests in the past 10 years
• *The universal free eye test was introduced in 1948 and abolished by the Conservative Government in 1988. According to the BMJ (Vol 300, 17 March 1990 – ‘High Street Eye Tests – payments are deterring the elderly and blindness will increase’), this led to a 30% decrease in the number of people visiting high street optometrists for eye examinations.
• ** Two million risking blindness, BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4641798.stm
• The cheapest prescription spectacles available at competitors are currently priced at £50 at ASDA, £25 at Specsavers and £25 at Boots and D&A

Further enquiries: Tesco Press Office. 01992 644 645