Socio-economic differences in accessing NHS spectacles amongst children with differing refractive errors living in Scotland.

Stephanie Kearney*, Niall C. Strang, Jim Lewsey, Augusto Azuara-Blanco, Sven Jonuscheit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background/objectives: Adults living in more deprived areas are less likely to attend an eye examination, resulting in greater visual impairment from undiagnosed eye disease and a widening of health inequalities. It is unknown if the introduction of free NHS eye examinations and help with spectacle costs has benefited children in Scotland. This study aimed to explore factors associated with accessing NHS spectacles including level of deprivation, refractive error, urbanity and age. Subjects/methods: NHS-financed General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) 3 supplement the cost of spectacles for children under 16 years. Administrative data on the spectacle refraction dispensed were obtained from Information Services Division (ISD) for mainland Scotland, 2018, and categorised by: Emmetropes/low hyperopes (reference group), myopes and moderate/high hyperopes. Data were linked to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) quintile. Results: Data included 108, 043 GOS 3 claims. Greater deprivation was associated with greater GOS 3 claims p = 0.041. This was most evident in emmetropic/low hyperopic children and in moderate/high hyperopic children. GOS 3 claims in the myopes group increased with age across all SIMD and decreased with age in the moderate/high hyperope group (all p < 0.001). GOS 3 claims were not associated with urbanity for all Health Boards (p = 0.13). Conclusions: Children in areas of greater deprivation and in more rural areas are not disadvantaged in accessing NHS spectacles. This did not vary by refractive error group. This suggests that health policy in Scotland is accessible to those from all deprivation levels and refractive errors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)773-780
Number of pages8
Issue number4
Early online date19 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2021


  • Scotland
  • eye examination
  • health inequalities
  • NHS spectacles
  • refractive errors
  • children
  • eye diseases, hereditary
  • state medicine
  • humans
  • myopia
  • eyeglasses
  • socioeconomic factors
  • Scotland/epidemiology
  • refractive errors/diagnosis
  • adult
  • child
  • hyperopia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Ophthalmology


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