Study finds increase in High Street healthcare reduces hospital burden

A 10% increase in conditions being treated through High Street services was linked to a 5% drop in referrals to GPs and hospitals

Pixabay/Tobias Dahlberg

New research from the University of Aberdeen has highlighted the role of High Street optometrists in easing the burden on other parts of the NHS.

The study, which was led by Professor Alexandros Zangelidis, found that when there was a 10% increase in conditions being treated through High Street services, there was a 5% drop in referrals to GPs or hospitals.

The research also demonstrated a link between regular eye examinations and the detection of eye disease which can often be symptomatic – such as glaucoma, diabetes and hypertension.

A 10% increase in supplementary eye examinations was associated with 8.6% more referrals to GPs or hospital for early intervention measures.

A recent report by the NHS Confederation highlighted that there were 30% fewer referrals to treatment in 2020 compared to 2019.

“One of the specialties most affected has been ophthalmology, raising significant concerns about eye health of patients in the long-term and the impact of this on the detection of other conditions such as diabetes, which can be detected via routine eye examination,” Zangelidis noted.

Alexandros Zangelidis
Professor Alexandros Zangelidis. Credit: University of Aberdeen

He shared that the research highlights the wider repercussions of temporary restrictions on eye care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Eye health conditions if left undetected and thus untreated, are expected to steadily deteriorate and lead to long-term damage to eye health and sight loss,” Zangelidis said.

He emphasised the need to encourage greater uptake of eye examinations.

“Everyone should be strongly encouraged to regularly have an eye examination. This will help in the early detection and treatment of health conditions and in releasing pressure from NHS resources,” Zangelidis said.