New AOP guidance sheds light on over-referrals

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12 November 2019
Source: Association of Optometrists

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) has produced new guidance and a helpful infographic to explain why some eye diseases have high levels of ‘false positive’ referrals of patients to hospital.

The guidance, The truth about ‘false positive’ referrals, shows that optometrists in community practice are already very good at identifying low prevalence diseases, such as glaucoma. But they could cut the number of false positive referrals, and reduce pressure on overstretched hospital eye departments, if NHS England funded more tests and checks in primary care.

The guidance shows how high false positive referral rates are inevitable where a disease only affects a small proportion of people. It will be used to improve understanding of eye disease referral rates among decision-makers and the health sector, as well as within optics itself.

AOP Clinical Director, Dr Peter Hampson said: “Identifying eye diseases, such as glaucoma, is a core function of the sight test, and referring suspected cases to hospital for further tests and treatment is a key part of the optometrist’s role. As our new guidance shows, diseases such as glaucoma thankfully only affect a small part of the population. That means that even though we use good tests, and apply them accurately, some of the patients we refer to hospital will turn out not to need treatment.”

Dr Hampson added: “That’s good news for the patients involved, but it uses up valuable capacity in busy hospitals. There’s real scope for the NHS to make more use of the skills of the community optometrists, by commissioning them to do further tests before they refer a patient to hospital.”

Read the guidance in full and download the infographic 

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