Specsavers records 30,000 referrals for glaucoma

Data shared by Specsavers aims to highlight the importance of regular eye tests in detecting glaucoma

Elderly man getting a sight test
Getty/FG Trade
New data that has been released by Specsavers during Glaucoma Awareness Week (26 June–2 July) has revealed that the group has made 30,000 referrals for glaucoma in people aged between 40 to 60 years old in the last year.

Highlighting that this accounts for nearly a third (30%) of all glaucoma referrals in the UK, Specsavers confirmed that it has partnered with Glaucoma UK during the annual awareness week to “highlight the importance of regular eye tests and the role of optometrists in helping to detect and monitor glaucoma in patients in community settings.”

A Specsavers survey conducted by OnePoll last year reported that more than one fifth of the population (21%) are not aware of how often they should visit their optician for a routine check-up, while the same percentage either cannot remember their last eye examination or have never had one.

Explaining the data, clinical services director at Specsavers, Giles Edmonds, shared: “[Our data] shows that glaucoma can affect people of all ages. Although most will not experience any symptoms, glaucoma can lead to loss of vision if it’s not detected and treated early. Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be recovered, but with early detection, careful monitoring and regular treatment, most people retain useful sight for life. Having an eye test at least every two years, regardless of your age or whether you’re experiencing vision issues or symptoms – is so important.” 

Glaucoma pathways

Specsavers has also highlighted the role that optometrists can and have played in supporting glaucoma treatment in community practice in Greater Manchester.

Through two pathways, the Glaucoma Enhanced Referral Service (GERS), which filters referrals from other services, and the stable glaucoma monitoring service in Greater Manchester, which is called Primary Eyecare Glaucoma Service (PEGS), services are offered to patients with diagnosed or suspected glaucoma in the community.

Described as “critical” by optometrist, Kevin Liu, who was a partner in three Specsavers practices in Altrincham, Sale and Urmston, he said the pathways provide patients with timely detection and monitoring of the condition.

Liu, who is now a clinical performance consultant at Specsavers, explained: “GERS helps us to find those patients who may have glaucoma while improving the quality of the referrals being sent to hospital. Ensuring the right patients are referred into secondary care ophthalmology services optimises the use of resources. This should continue to make life easier for our hospital colleagues and allow them to focus their care on those who need it.”

Professor Roshini Sanders, a consultant ophthalmologist at Queen Margaret Hospital in Fife, led a team which developed a pathway for people with low-risk glaucoma to undergo treatment in the community with their local optometrist. Speaking about the service, she said: “The biggest challenge when it comes to glaucoma is not seeing people in time. If glaucoma is detected during an eye test, High Street optometrists can share data with the glaucoma team at Queen Margaret’s. This ensure patients who need to be seen in hospital are referred quickly. Treating low risk cases at local optometrists helps to ease hospital capacity and ensure glaucoma patients are seen sooner.”

Edmonds described the pathway as “a great example of an innovative pathway designed to improve outcomes for patients.” However, he highlighted that the success of these pathways is “patchy – especially in England” and called for a “national agreement to implement new pathways to improve glaucoma care to help save sight.”

Highlighting the importance of the awareness week, chief executive of Glaucoma UK, Joanne Creighton, said: “As a charity that provides help and support to everyone living with glaucoma, Glaucoma Awareness Week is an opportunity to highlight the fact that an estimated 350,000 people in the UK are unaware they have glaucoma.”