Optoms urged to educate support staff about retinoblastoma

CHECT is encouraging optometrists to help support staff

A child with Rp

The Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) has issued a call to optometrists urging them to help practice support staff when it comes to understanding the key symptoms of retinoblastoma (Rb).

During World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week, which started yesterday (13 May) and runs until 19 May, the charity is encouraging optometrists to run through and explain the protocol for the condition with other staff members including receptionists, optical assistants and dispensing opticians.

The optical assistants and receptionists’ protocol, which has been issued by the CHECT explains “in clear, lay terms, the symptoms of Rb and the correct action to take if any of these are mentioned by a parent contacting the practice,” the charity explained.

Chief executive of the CHECT, Patrick Tonks, said: “We know it is very unusual for parents of babies and young children to seek optician appointments. Taking a few moments to simply ask why they are concerned about their child’s eyes could reveal crucial information like having noticed a white glow in the eye or a newly onset squint, both of which can be symptoms of eye cancer. Such information should be a red flag that the child must be examined urgently, by an optometrist or GP.”

Last year, research by the charity revealed that half of optical practices approached by parents of children who were later diagnosed with eye cancer refused to see the children because of their age.

Independent optical group, Rawlings Opticians, is supporting the initiative. Optometrist and director, Rachel Ley-Smith, emphasised: “Optical assistants, receptionists and dispensing opticians are on the frontline when it comes to parents requesting appointments or advice regarding their babies or toddlers. It’s really important that staff have the necessary knowledge to identify possible concerns sooner.”

Statistics highlighted by the CHECT report include the finding that 90% of children diagnosed with Rb will survive, but over half will lose an eye.

For more information on the initiative, visit the CHECT website.