Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the answers to some of the questions we get asked most frequently. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, then please feel free to contact us directly.

What's the difference between optician and optometrist?

The term optician refers to either a dispensing optician or optometrist. Dispensing opticians are trained to fit and supply spectacles and take various measurements necessary for the production of an accurate pair of spectacles. They are not trained to carry out sight tests.

Optometrists, on the other hand, are highly trained professionals who are qualified to carry out sight tests and prescribe glasses and contact lenses. They are also trained to diagnose eye disease and refer for further treatment or assessment as necessary.

The two terms are sometimes used loosely which can cause confusion. Another way to remember is that “all optometrists are opticians, but not all opticians are optometrists!”

How often should I have my eyes checked?

It can be different for each person, but as a general rule, adults with healthy eyes are recommended to have their eyes tested every two years. Children normally need eye tests every six to twelve months depending on circumstances. People over 70 and those over 40 and with close family history of glaucoma are recommended to have annual sight test. Your practitioner will be able to advise you on how frequently you need to have your eyes tested. Contact lens wearers should have a check-up every six to twelve months as recommended by their practitioner.

Do I need to pay for my sight test?

At Shephard & Akay Optometrists we provide both NHS and private sight tests.

NHS sight test is available free of charge if you are in one the following categories:

  • you’re aged under 16
  • you’re aged 16, 17 or 18 and are in full-time education
  • you’re aged 60 or over
  • you’re registered as partially sighted (sight impaired) or blind (severely sight impaired)
  • you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma
  • you’re 40 or over, and your mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter has been diagnosed with glaucoma
  • you’ve been advised by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) that you’re at risk of glaucoma
  • you’re eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher – your optometrist (optician) can advise you about your entitlement

You’re also entitled to a free NHS sight test if you:

  • receive Income Support
  • receive Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (not Contribution-based)
  • receive Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • receive Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • are awarded Universal Credit
  • are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
  • you are named on a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2)

There are strict criteria on how often you are able to have an NHS sight test. Please contact us for more details if you are unsure about your eligibility.


  • “I wouldn’t go anywhere else now. Friendly, attentive staff, and a very thorough eye exam”

    S.E, Shefford
  • “Every time I have gone elsewhere, I have regretted it! Great service and consistent friendly staff”

    Miss N.M, Hitchin
  • “Mr Akay takes time and trouble with my eyes and is always happy to answer any concerns and questions I may have”

    S.H, Luton
  • “Very impressed with the attention to detail and thoroughness of the eye test”

    D.H, Hitchin
  • “By far the best and most comprehensive eye care I have received. Great service and great care.”

    H.W, Hitchin
  • “I would recommend anyone with Keratoconus to visit Shephard and Akay as they are clearly experts in this field.”

  • “If you are looking for a good optician, I highly recommend a visit to Shephard and Akay.”

    Diane, Hitchin
  • “Mr Akay goes the extra mile to ensure that his patients receive the personalised help that they need.”

    I. Talks, Ashwell
  • “Very efficient, helpful staff. I have a petite face and it’s been a joy to find an optician who helps with smaller frames- they are perfect!”

    Dora, St Albans