This is a very brief explanation of how optometry became part of the NHS, part of Aneurin Bevan’s plan for an umbrella organisation which could provide good healthcare that was ‘free for all at the point of delivery’.
The NHS Act of 1946 had established the benefits to health and work of everyone having access to free medical eye-care. At this stage it had been hoped that free eye tests would be available from medically trained eye specialists within hospitals. As a temporary measure it was agreed that Opticians would be paid to test sight and dispense free spectacles in their normal place of business. The role of opticians in providing these Supplementary Ophthalmic Services (SOS) was formally recognised in 1949.
Over the next decade the government recognised that the profession of Ophthalmic Optics was well placed to continue being the provider of free sight tests and glasses for a population who had healthy eyes but required optical correction to see clearly.
The Opticians Act of 1958 established the profession of sight testing by Ophthalmic Opticians within the NHS. Though it was to be another 10 years before The Health Services and Public Health Act of 1968 upgraded optometry from a supplementary service to the General Ophthalmic Service (GOS)