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The effectiveness of schemes that refine referrals between primary and secondary care - the UK experience with glaucoma referrals: the Health Innovation & Education Cluster (HIEC) Glaucoma Pathways Project

Ratnarajan, G., Newsom, W., Vernon, S. A. , Fenerty, C., Henson, D., Spencer, F., Wang, Y., Harper, R. A., McNaught, A., Collins, L., Parker, M., Lawrenson, J., Hudson, R., Khaw, P. T., Wormald, R., Garway-Heath, D. F. & Bourne, R. (2013). The effectiveness of schemes that refine referrals between primary and secondary care - the UK experience with glaucoma referrals: the Health Innovation & Education Cluster (HIEC) Glaucoma Pathways Project. BMJ Open, 3(7), doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-002715

Abstract

Objectives: A comparison of glaucoma referral refinement schemes (GRRS) in the UK during a time period of considerable change in national policy and guidance.

Design: Retrospective multisite review.

Setting: The outcomes of clinical examinations by optometrists with a specialist interest in glaucoma (OSIs) were compared with optometrists with no specialist interest in glaucoma (non-OSIs). Data from Huntingdon and Nottingham assessed non-OSI findings, while Manchester and Gloucestershire reviewed OSI findings.

Participants: 1086 patients. 434 patients were from Huntingdon, 179 from Manchester, 204 from Gloucestershire and 269 from Nottingham.

Results: The first-visit discharge rate (FVDR) for all time periods for OSIs was 14.1% compared with 36.1% from non-OSIs (difference 22%, CI 16.9% to 26.7%; p<0.001). The FVDR increased after the April 2009 National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) glaucoma guidelines compared with pre-NICE, which was particularly evident when pre-NICE was compared with the current practice time period (OSIs 6.2–17.2%, difference 11%, CI −24.7% to 4.3%; p=0.18, non-OSIs 29.2–43.9%, difference 14.7%, CI −27.8% to −0.30%; p=0.03). Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) was the commonest reason for referral for OSIs and non-OSIs, 28.7% and 36.1%, respectively, of total referrals. The proportion of referrals for elevated IOP increased from 10.9% pre-NICE to 28.0% post-NICE for OSIs, and from 19% to 45.1% for non-OSIs.

Conclusions: In terms of ‘demand management’, OSIs can reduce FVDR of patients reviewed in secondary care; however, in terms of ‘patient safety’ this study also shows that overemphasis on IOP as a criterion for referral is having an adverse effect on both the non-OSIs and indeed the OSIs ability to detect glaucomatous optic nerve features. It is recommended that referral letters from non-OSIs be stratified for risk, directing high-risk patients straight to secondary care, and low-risk patients to OSIs.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
R Medicine > RE Ophthalmology
Departments: School of Health Sciences > Optometry & Visual Science
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