Purpose: To determine the number and nature of shared care schemes for glaucoma and glaucoma suspects operating in England.
Methods: A two-stage investigational process targeting all secondary-care ophthalmic departments with junior medical staff. An initial telephone contact for basic data (March 2006) was followed by a detailed questionnaire for completion by the scheme lead (May 2006).
Results: The telephone contact showed that of the 131 eligible ophthalmic departments, 76 claimed to be operating a glaucoma-based shared care scheme. Questionnaires were returned from 74 of the 76 departments claiming to run a scheme, showing that there were only 66 schemes operating in mid 2006 in association with 62 departments. Of these, 14 were community-based (predominantly run by trained optometrists) and 52 operated 'in-house' (predominantly involving nurses and optometrists). Most schemes were <6 years old and of the 30 schemes seeing new patients, 14 (47%) did not use gonioscopy as part of the assessment. In 8 schemes (12%), the shared care staff members were able to prescribe medication for glaucoma.
Conclusion: In England, even before the outcome of the Department of Health shared care pilots had been published, approximately 50% of ophthalmic departments were running shared care schemes for glaucoma. However, most schemes contributed only modestly to the overall volume of glaucoma care, indicating that the majority of glaucoma-related consultations still occur directly with ophthalmologists. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists guidelines on gonioscopy are not being followed in almost half of the schemes seeing new patients.