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Laser eye surgery - best and worst companies

Laser eye surgery costs

By Anna Studman

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Laser eye surgery costs - everything you need to know about how much you should pay for laser eye surgery, from the experts at Which?

Considering laser eye surgery and want to know how much it costs? We've done the hard work for you. 

Our expert research reveals how much laser eye surgery costs, and how you can avoid hidden or unfair charges.

Not only have we crunched the prices and analysed the small print of the companies most popular with the public, but we've also surveyed nearly 1,000 laser eye surgery patients to discover what you need to know before you sign up for surgery.

You can click on the links below to jump to specific questions.

In this article:

Laser eye surgery costs in the UK 

Prices are advertised from as little as £595 to as much as £2,600 per eye at the clinics in our survey, and this will be higher if you opt for Wavefront (personalised eye mapping technology, sometimes called iDesign, high profile or Intralase).

Lasik with Wavefront costs from £1,495 to £3,250 per eye.

A quarter of people who had laser eye surgery (26%) felt under pressure to sign up. This was higher for the larger chains (excluding people who said they didn't know): a third (35%) of Optimax customers, and three in 10 of  Ultralase (30%) and Optical Express (29%) reported feeling under pressure to sign up.

It's worth checking how the clinic gets to the advertised prices and whether these vary. Optical Express advertises from £595 per eye but the footnoted small print says that just under a quarter (23.4%) of individual eyes had a prescription that qualified for surgery at this price. In other words, those with a simpler prescription.

And cheaper prices may be for less common laser treatments such as Lasek and PRK (the forerunner of Lasek).

  • Ultralase and Optimax give a fixed price that's not dependent on prescription: £1,795 per eye for both Lasik and Lasek with Wavefront.
  • London Vision Clinic also quotes a standard £5,200 for Lasik, Lasek and PRK on both eyes, £6,200 if this includes high profile treatment (Wavefront).
  • Optical Express prices vary, depending on your eyes and prescription (simple and lower prescriptions will be cheaper).
  • Optegra charges fixed prices (£1,795 per eye), although these are slightly higher in Central London (£1,895 per eye) and for more complicated cases (£2,495 per eye).

Look out for additional consultation fees and deposits too and ask in what circumstances they're refundable. 

And - as the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (eye doctors) says - ask about after-care and what's included in the cost. For example, who will do it and where it will be carried out. And how long after surgery the clinic will continue to support you.

Also, what will happen if anything doesn't go according to plan and who will pay.

Your eyesight is precious: use our laser eye surgery companies compared results to choose where to go.

Lens exchange surgery costs

Lens exchange surgery prices (the lens in your eye is replaced with a synthetic one) have remained stable as this surgery becomes more popular.

If you have your own lenses replaced with monovision (single vision) ones, the clinics in our survey cost from £1,995 per eye to £3,250. Whereas multifocal lenses cost upwards from £3,195 per eye to as much as £5,000. The cost of specialist lenses can bump the price of monofocal and mutlifocal lenses up too, and some clinics such as Advanced Vision Care charge extra if you have astigmatism  or 'complex refractive errors' (prescription).

Some clinics charge a fixed cost: for example, Optimax quotes £3,245 per eye.

Implantable contact lenses cost

These vary from around £3,245 to as much as £5,000 per eye. 

Variables include whether the lenses are simple or specialist, toric or non-toric. Plus whether you have eye conditions such as astigmatism or keratoconus. 

How do I choose a laser eye surgery company? 

Your main choice is whether to go to one of the bigger chains or a small chain or independent clinic.

The larger chains, perhaps unsurprisingly, tend to offer lower prices. Whereas hospitals and smaller chains and individual clinics tend to be (but aren't always) at the pricier end.

It's important to choose the clinic with the right expertise for your eyes. For example, if you have a very high or complex prescription or risk factors such as diabetes, high street chains may be less likely to treat you. 

But these are not blanket rules and it's certainly worth discussing your particular needs and that clinic's results in treating people with similar eyes to you (for example, with a very high long-sighted prescription).

For example, Optical Express says that 99.2% of patients achieved 20/20 vision or better. However, this is based on 'the most common prescriptions we treat' so you might want to interrogate what the statistics are for your prescription (especially if it's high).

Not all clinics offer all treatments too. If you are looking for surface laser eye surgery ReLEX Smile, this is not offered by Optical Express, Ultralase or Optimax.

We asked nearly 1,000 customers detailed questions about their clinic so we can tell you the best and worst laser eye surgery companies.

Should I pay in full before laser eye surgery? 

Sometimes you will be asked for full payment in advance of your surgery but we doesn't think this should be happening. Especially before you’ve had a consultation with a surgeon. 

We would advise that you to think carefully before proceeding if you’re asked to pay for surgery in advance.

Should I pay in advance for laser eye surgery? 

Your laser eye surgery clinic may ask you for a deposit or even full advance payment to secure your operation slot. Before you part with your cash, consider the following:

  • Have you had time to do the research you need to feel confident that the type of surgery and the clinic is right for you?
  • Are you sure that the type of surgery is right for you and can help you achieve what you consider successful for your eyes?
  • Are your treatment options and costs clear – for example, to help you decide that it’s worth you paying more for Wavefront (technology to treat the specific shape of your eye)? 
  • Are you clear about, and happy with, the setup of that particular clinic? For example, if you want to see the surgeon before the day of surgery, is that offered by the clinic?
  • Have you been told (including by the operating surgeon) about the potential complications and risks for your particular eyes, and the chances of them happening?
  • Are you clear about what happens if you change your mind about the surgery? For example, does the clinic offer a cooling-off period during which you can simply decide not to go ahead?
  • Do you know about after-care and what is and isn't included in the cost?

Should I be offered a cooling-off period when I book? 

Guidance by the General Medical Council (GMC) is that a minimum cooling-off period of a week is recommended after you have your initial appointment and consent discussion with the surgeon who will perform your surgery. However, do note that this is only a recommendation.

If you're signing up for surgery while on the provider's premises, there's no standard cooling-of period that providers are legally obliged to offer you.

However, many will offer a short period of time during which you may change your mind and receive a full refund.

Details of any cooling-off period will be set out in the provider's terms and conditions. If you're unsure, make sure you ask before signing the contract.

What am I signing up to? 

Some of the main things you’ll need to look at in the terms and conditions include:

  • Your right to cancel if you change your mind.
  • When you need to pay in full for your surgery. A quarter (26%) of our survey respondents were asked for this, with 9% asked to pay in full before meeting their surgeon.
  • Whether you are entitled to a refund if you change your mind after speaking to your surgeon.
  • Whether there are any other fees you might need to pay, such as non-refundable consultation fees. For example, Centre for Sight charges a £500 consultation fee but refunds half if you're suitable for surgery but decide not to go ahead.

You’ll also want to watch out for potentially unfair terms and conditions such as:

  • If you're not allowed a refund if you change your mind after speaking to your surgeon.
  • Non-refundable deposits and payments if you change your mind following a change in the type of procedure recommended.
  • Additional fees, especially if these charges are for what you thought you’d signed up for in the first place.
  • If the provider can make changes to your laser eye surgery without giving you the chance to reschedule or cancel.

What are my cancellation rights? 

One in 10 (10%) of our survey respondents who had laser eye surgery told us that cancellation rights weren't explained well to them.

Our previous (2014) investigation into laser eye surgery sales uncovered some dodgy selling practices, such as misleading sales pitches and pressure to book the same day, without adequate time for research. 

If you sign up but want to cancel, many clinics offer the cooling-off period recommended by the General Medical Council. Check the terms and conditions to find out if this is the case before you sign up for laser eye surgery, as you’re unlikely to be offered your money back after any cooling-off period has ended.

Should I see my surgeon before the day of surgery? 

Yes, you should, but it's still down to the individual clinic what they do in practice and whether they charge extra for it. We have heard of discussions taking place via Skype rather than face-to-face, so it's important to check.

You shouldn't have surgery on the day you have your initial appointment with the company or be given time-limited discounts (for example: 'we can offer you a cheaper rate if you fill a slot that's become available tomorrow').

If you decide to have the procedure sooner due to exceptional circumstances, the clinic will need to document your reasons, and you should not feel pressured to go ahead with surgery.

But one in six (17%) of our survey respondents were offered a time-limited discount.

What questions should I ask my laser eye surgeon? 

Former president of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (RCOphth), Professor Caroline MacEwen, says: ‘Laser eye surgery has become normalised, but you’ve got to remember that anything surgical is irreversible. 

'So we highly recommend that anyone considering the operation should ask their surgeon for details of their training, qualifications, length of practice and results.' 

The RCOphth also advises:

  • In general, the more operations a surgeon has carried out, the higher the success rate. In some cases, sight without glasses might not be as good as sight with glasses before the operation. The difference is usually minor, but find out what results your surgeon has had. 
  • Also check how many patients have had to come in for further treatment to improve on the initial results. Bear in mind that one in three people will still need glasses for some purposes, such as night driving. 
  • Ask about age-related presbyopia (the loss of elasticity of the eye's crystalline lens, leading to difficulty with near vision) and the need for reading glasses in your mid forties. Most people get this, and laser surgery won't be able to avoid or cure it.
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