Research Article

Efficiency of referral for suspected glaucoma.

BMJ 1991; 302 doi: (Published 27 April 1991) Cite this as: BMJ 1991;302:998
  1. M W Tuck,
  2. R P Crick
  1. International Glaucoma Association, King's College Hospital, London.


    OBJECTIVE--To examine the efficiency of referral for suspected glaucoma to general practitioners and consultants by optometrists. DESIGN--A prospective survey covering 5% of all sight tests performed by optometrists in England and Wales over six months, with analysis of referred patients. SETTING--241 optometrists' practices in areas representative of England and Wales in socioeconomic terms. SUBJECTS--Of 275,600 people attending for a sight test, 1505 were referred with suspected glaucoma (0.9% of those aged over 4%). Outcomes were recorded for 1228 patients, 1103 (90%) of whom attended for examination by a consultant ophthalmologist (8% on a private basis). The analysis was confined to the 704 cases in which the information on diagnosis was received directly from a consultant or general practitioner. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Diagnoses reported by consultant ophthalmologists. Waiting times before an appointment for examination by a consultant ophthalmologist. RESULTS--Glaucoma was confirmed in 283 of the 704 referred patients, and another 222 patients were considered to require further monitoring. In all, 112 (41%) of 275 confirmed cases of glaucoma were in patients with intraocular pressures greater than or equal to 30 mm Hg. At all levels of intraocular pressure the accuracy of referral was greater when the optometrist also recorded the presence of suspicious optic discs or loss of visual field, or both; but only 331 (47%) out of the 704 referred patients had been tested with a field screener. The median waiting time for an NHS clinic appointment was nine weeks. Almost a 10th of confirmed cases of glaucoma were in people in a high risk category for glaucoma who had to wait at least 14 weeks for an appointment. CONCLUSIONS--Closer cooperation, especially at the local level, among consultants, general practitioners, and optometrists is needed to improve testing and referral for suspected glaucoma. Optometrists should be encouraged to perform all the three main tests--ophthalmoscopy, tonometry, and perimetry--in patients before referral and to report precisely on reasons for referral to help prioritisation. The optometrist's referral letter to the general practitioner should always be passed on to the consultant. Similarly, the diagnosis should always be reported back to the optometrist.