An interesting article on High Street Optics


From Specsavers to Tesco, the cost of glasses on the high street compared

Our table shows the cost of basic glasses and various enhancements at the major opticians' chains

Optical patients can face a bewildering range of options 

By Amelia Murray

The average cost of an eye test is £21.31 in England. But you will pay on top for any glasses that you are prescribed, and you are likely to be offered a range of optional extras.

The range of prices is huge: a basic pair of glasses can cost £25 from a high street optician while designer spectacles can easily cost more than £200.

This table shows the cost of some of the options.

[All of the prices below are add-on prices on top of the frame price, if you wanted to reglaze you can add at least £39 for the reglaze cost onto all of the prices!]

Range of lenses offered by opticians

Here we look at some of the extras and why they may be worth paying for.

Photochromic lenses: £49-£70

This is the generic name given to lenses that darken when exposed to ultraviolet light. Opticians may have their own brand names, such as Transitions or Reactions lenses.

Why pay?

Simply put, it’s for the convenience of not carrying around a pair of sunglasses. In most cases photochromic lenses are not suitable for driving as the windscreen will affect the reaction.

Polarised lenses: £60 or more

These lenses filter out reflected light, which reduces glare.

Why pay?

The sun protection and reduced glare could prove useful around water, for frequent drivers and for those who often use a computer.

The cost of the frame is just the start of the optical purchase  Photo: Chloe McCormick and Nicholas O'Donnell-Hoare

Anti-scratch lenses: £30 or more

Lenses are treated with a special coating to make them more resistant to scratching.

Why pay?

The anti-scratch treatment is often offered to those with reading glasses as they are moved around a great deal. Paying for the coating could prove cost effective; scratches cannot be removed so scratched glasses will need to be replaced.

Thin and lighter lenses: £40-£90

Some people are prescribed thick lenses, which can be heavy. Sarah Farrant of the College of Optometrists said thicker lenses could also cause distortion, while, for those who are significantly short sighted, thick lenses can make their eyes look small.

Why pay?

Thinner lenses are lighter and more comfortable. They also offer an improved cosmetic appearance and, in the case of "aspheric" lenses (lenses with an outward curve), better vision.

• How to save hundreds on eye tests, glasses and contact lenses

Bifocals and varifocals: £49-£159 (although can cost as much as £500)

Bifocals allow the wearer to see over both long and short distances. The two parts of the lens are clearly separated by a line.

Varifocals (or "progressives") are more advanced. They have blended vision zones and allow wearers to see over long, intermediate and short distances. While there are no lines, they take time to adapt to as wearers need to get comfortable with the visual transition.

Why pay?

According to Michael Potter at the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, with varifocals and bifocals it is a case of getting what you pay for. The more you spend, the more bespoke the lenses will be. Wearers will have better vision zones and less distortion, and, in the case of progressive lenses, easier and quicker adaptation.

Ms Farrant said it was hard for consumers to understand the huge differences in varifocal price.

“Lots of people naively believe a varifocal is a varifocal but they’re colossally different. The lens could cost £50 or £500 and look the same, but it’s about outward vision,” she said.

Trust the optician?

Jennie Jones of the Optical Consumer Complaints Service said the difficulty consumers faced was the fact that they were placing their trust and money in the hands of a healthcare professional in a retail setting.

She said: "The complexities of the products available, coupled with the individual lifestyle and health needs of each consumer, mean there are often hundreds of variables and options available. As consumers we have to trust those who are advising and supplying those products to us."

The industry is regulated by the General Optical Council, which is replacing its current code of conduct with new "standards of practice" to make clear what is expected of registered opticians. The new regulations cover sales and professionalism. Two clauses read as follows:

16.3 Ensure that incentives, targets and similar factors do not affect your professional judgement. Do not allow personal or commercial interests and gains to compromise patient safety.

16.5 Be honest in your financial and commercial dealings and give patients clear information about the costs of your professional services and products before they commit to buying.