Aim: It has been previously shown that community refinement of glaucoma referrals is an efficient way to investigate and treat glaucoma suspects. The potential for false negatives has not been explored previously and we describe a scheme in which effort has been made to both assess and control for this, and report on its success.
Methods: Trained optometrists were recruited to examine and investigate the patients referred with suspected glaucoma, with a view to decreasing false-positive rates in accordance with an agreed protocol. The randomly selected notes of 100 patients referred onward to the Hospital Eye Service (HES) by trained, accredited optometrists, and the notes and optic disc images of 100 randomly selected patients retained in the community were examined in order to determine the efficiency and safety of the scheme.
Results: The scheme resulted in a 53% reduction in the total number of referrals to HES with a cost saving of £117 per patient. Analysis of patients referred resulted in a diagnosis of glaucoma or retention of patients in HES with suspected glaucoma in 83% and a good correlation between the hospital and optometric measurements. Analysis of notes and optic nerve images of patients not referred indicated no compromise on patient safety.
Conclusion: This study suggests that suspected glaucoma can be successfully refined in the community with benefits to both the patient and the hospital. We also suggest that such a scheme may be safe as well as cost-effective, a conclusion that has not as yet been reached by any other study.