With GP pressure and workloads close to breaking point, research reveals an alarming, self-acknowledged gap in family doctors’ skills when it comes to diagnosing and treating patient’s eye conditions.

Research conducted amongst 2,000 UK adults and over 100 GPs and Optometrists by Optegra Eye Health Care, shows that a third of GPs (32 per cent) say they lack the skills required to diagnose eye conditions, despite more than a quarter of British adults (26 per cent) turning to their GP for help if they experience vision problems.

Almost half (44 per cent) of GPs say that they feel less confident in dealing with eye conditions than any other part of the body with two in five GPs (40 per cent) surveyed stating they need more, or refresher, training on all eye conditions.

Furthermore, both GPs and opticians cite the lack of regular eye tests as one of the biggest causes of rising eye health problems, along with smoking, diet, UV rays and demands of technology.

Optegra Eye Health Care’s wide-ranging research also reveals:

• 90 per cent of opticians say that they are seeing an increase in eye health problems compared to only five years ago
• 99 per cent of GPs and opticians agree that an increase in obesity and diabetes is likely to cause more eye problems in the future
• Two thirds of opticians (63 per cent) feel that there is a serious absence of public knowledge around eye health
• 94 per cent of GPs and opticians say they have patients whose poor eyesight has stopped them leading a full and active life
• Only 50 per cent of young people aged 16-24 know that those under 18, or in full time education, are entitled to a free eye test

Dr. Clare O’Donnell, Head of Eye Sciences at Optegra said: “There is a significant lack of public knowledge around the different professionals offering ophthalmological care. If you have concern about your sight, by visiting an optometrist at your optician instead of a GP, you will be seen by a clinician who is trained to recognise abnormalities such as glaucoma or cataracts, and has the equipment available to undertake diagnostic tests.

“Understanding the difference between the various signs and symptoms and accessing the right care in a timely fashion really could be the difference between sight-threatening and even life-threatening conditions being diagnosed before it’s too late.”

In addition to GPs highlighting the need for more training on diagnosing and treating different eye conditions, general practices may lack the necessary equipment to carry out a comprehensive eye exam.

Dr. O’Donnell: “Without the right equipment, it is impossible for health practitioners to complete a full eye examination. If we don’t have comprehensive eye examinations at regular intervals it is inevitable that some serious conditions – such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, or diabetes – may go undetected.”

Optegra’s Vision of Britain report can be read in full at www.optegra.com/VOB

Optegra Eye Health Care offers a free consultation for laser eye and lens replacement (Clairvu) surgery at its Eye Hospitals nationwide. For more information please visit www.optegra.com