Over a quarter of patients with eye problems use GP as the first port of call

Research released last week showed that while 26% of adults turn to their GP about an eye problem rather than an optometrist, 32% of GPs feel ‘de-skilled’ in diagnosing eye conditions

13 Jan 2016 by Emily McCormick

sarahjarvisMore than a quarter of UK patients turn to their GP with eye problems rather than an optometrist, according to research published last week (4 January), despite GPs admitting to a lack of confidence in diagnosing eye conditions.

The Vision of Britain report, which was commissioned by Optegra Eye Health Care, reported that, while 26% of adults in the UK present to their GP with an eye problem, 32% of doctors said they feel ‘de-skilled’ in diagnosing eye conditions. Furthermore, 44% of GPs said they felt less confident in identifying eye conditions than other parts of the body, such as the ears, heart and lungs.

The report also found that 40% of doctors feel they need more, or refresher, training on all eye conditions, with a further 40% saying they would refer eye problems to a specialist more quickly than other parts of the body.

The research went on to reveal the most common eye problems that patients present with to optometrists were infection, presbyopia or hyperopia, diabetes-related issues and age-related macular degeneration.

Optegra medical director, Dr Rob Morris, commented: “It is clear from our research that both the British public and many GPs are unclear about the current treatments available for eye conditions. For example, we learnt that one in five GPs is unaware that patients can have their long or short sight corrected at the same time a cataract is being removed, freeing them of glasses or contact lenses. This is despite the fact that one in three British adults will be affected by cataracts in their lifetime.”

Mr Morris added: “As part of Optegra’s commitment to continuing professional development for the ophthalmic and healthcare community, we will continue to work with both GPs and optometrists to share best practice, and grow understanding of new technology and the range of treatments available to patients today.”

Public view

In terms of the public’s view on eye health, the report found that 81% of British adults worry about protecting their eyesight, but nearly half (44%) do not attend regular eye tests every two years as recommended by the College of Optometrists.

Furthermore, both optometrists and GPs cite the lack of regular eye examinations as one of the biggest causes of rising eye health problems, along with smoking, diet, genetics and UV rays.

The research, which was performed online, surveyed 2016 adults as well as 50 GPs and 50 optometrists.

Speaking about the report, GP and medical broadcaster, Dr Sarah Jarvis (pictured), said: “The Vision of Britain report highlights the fact that many people turn to GPs instead of an optician as a first port of call when they have eye problems. As a doctor, I’m only too aware of how little in-depth training I had in dealing with everyday eye problems that affect so many patients. It is vital that GPs on the frontline have ongoing support in diagnosing their patients accurately and confidently so they can be put on the right treatment path.”

During January and February, Optegra will host a Vision of Britain tour making stops in cities across the UK to offer free eye health checks to people locally. For more information, visit www.optegra.com/VOB

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