New research reveals an alarming, self-acknowledged gap in family doctors' skills when it comes to diagnosing and treating patient's eye conditions.
The Vision of Britain reportⁱ, commissioned by Optegra Eye Health Care, shows that more than three in 10 GPs (32 per cent) say they feel 'de-skilled' in diagnosing eye conditions, reflecting the immense pressures and workload on these doctors.
And 44 per cent of GPs say that they feel less confident in dealing with eye conditions than any other part of the body.
Yet more than a quarter of British adults (26 per cent) turn to their GP, rather than an optician, for help if they have an eye problem.
Two in five GPs (40 per cent) surveyed for Vision of Britain state they need more, or refresher, training on all eye conditions.
The comprehensive research with British public, GPs and opticians, also reveals that although four in five adults worry about protecting their eyesight, nearly half (44 per cent) do not attend regular eye tests every two years, as recommended by the College of Optometrists.
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.
As part of its commitment to improving the nation's eye health, Optegra will also be launching a DIY eye test, available for free from February, to help people identify if they need to get their eyes professionally checked with an optician.
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
- More than three in five 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 Sarah Jarvis, GP and medical broadcaster, says: "This important Vision of Britain report highlights the fact that many people turn to GPs instead of an optician as a first port of call when they have eye problems.
"As a doctor, I'm only too aware of how little in-depth training I had in dealing with everyday eye problems like dry eye and short-sight. Yet they affect so many patients. It is vital that GPs on the frontline have ongoing support in diagnosing their patients accurately and confidently so they can be put on the right treatment path.
"I also know how few of my patients understand the importance of regular eye checks and basic eye hygiene. Good eye care can help prevent sight-threatening problems or pick them up at an early stage when complications can be prevented by treatment."
Optegra Eye Health Care hosts regular education programmes across the UK for GPs and will be touring a number of major cities in January/February 2016 offering free eye health checks to the local community.
Leading ophthalmic surgeon, and Optegra Medical Director, Mr Robert Morris, says: "It is clear from our research that both the British public and many GPs are unclear about the current treatments available for eye conditions; treatments that in many cases are straightforward and painless procedures.
"This lack of knowledge means that the British public is unnecessarily putting up with poor eye sight every day.
"Education and communication, from the ophthalmic community and the government/NHS has to be at the forefront of the battle to restore the Vision of Britain to where it should and can be."
Readers can order a full copy of the Vision of Britain, which offers practical advice as well as capturing the state of the nation's eye health, by visiting www.optegra.com/VOB.