Saturday 23 March 2013

GPs to help tackle sight loss gap

A sight loss charity is working with GPs to find a solution to tackle undiagnosed sight loss amongst older people which can be used in general practice. 
The Thomas Pocklington Trust invited 25 GPs to test a ‘rules of thumb’ idea to detect vision loss during routine consultations. Despite reporting that this was not the answer, the results highlighted a new approach which is now being developed in workshops. The aim is to train practitioners to recognise patterns and symptoms of sight loss by using case studies of people whose undiagnosed sight loss could lead to wider health issues. 
In 2008, a review of community screening for visual impairment in the elderly reported that older people’s routine GP visits could be used as an effective ‘case finding’ opportunity. As a result, the charity commissioned researchers from the University College London (UCL) to explore the possibilities. Two studies – FOCUS and BLIND – were developed to prompt simple screening questions about sight loss. 
The new approach is now being tested in training workshops for GPs as part of the WISH project – a Medical Research Council (MRC) funded study which trains practice nurses to identity older people with complex health and social care needs. 
UCL’s Professor Steve Iliffe, who led the research, said: “The input of GPs is invaluable if we are to reduce undiagnosed sight loss in older people. Their day-to-day experience is helping us to determine what can work in general practice. With heuristics they have sent us back to the drawing board but we are now testing ideas to tackle this serious health problem.”

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