Optometrists have welcomed the extension of Treatment Benefit to 450,000 self-employed people.
The Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) said that the extension, announced by the Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar, entitles self-employed people to receive free eye examinations at their local optometrist.
AOI also welcomed the announcement that the Minister is to restore other benefits which had been ceased later in the year, including the option of free glasses, or contribution towards a more expensive pair under the optical scheme.
"Ophthalmology has the largest waiting list of any medical treatment area," said AOI CEO Sean McCrave.
"We met with the Minister for Health Simon Harris recently and stressed to him our eagerness to work with his Department, the HSE, hospitals and Ophthalmologists to greatly improve access for patients.
"This problem can be solved by enhancing the role of Optometry to provide community based care, monitoring and review of routine eye health problems, freeing up hospital services to focus on specialist and complex cases."