New research reveals optometrists are seeing an increase in eye health problems

New research reveals 90 per cent of optometrists are seeing an increase in eye health problems compared to only five years ago. The research has also unveiled an alarming, self-acknowledged gap in GP’s skills when it comes to diagnosing and treating eye conditions.

The Vision of Britain report*, commissioned by Optegra Eye Health Care, shows that more than a quarter of British adults (26 per cent) turn to their GP rather than an optometrist for help if they have an eye problem. However, 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. In addition 44 per cent say that they feel less confident in identifying eye conditions than other parts of the body, such as ears, heart and lungs. Two in five GPs (40 per cent) surveyed for Vision of Britain say they need more, or refresher, training on all eye conditions. And a further 40 per cent say they would refer eye problems to a specialist more quickly than other parts of the body.

The Optegra Eye Health Care report is based on wide-ranging research among British adults, GPs and optometrists. It reveals that the most common eye problems presented by patients to optometrists are infection, presbyopia or hyperopia, diabetes-related issues and AMD. The comprehensive research also reveals that although four in five British adults (81 per cent) 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 optometrists and GPs cite the lack of regular eye tests as one of the biggest causes of rising eye health problems, along with smoking, diet, genetics and UV rays.

The Vision of Britain report also reveals:

  • An overwhelming 98 per cent of GPs agree that optometrists and opticians are best placed – over GPs – to diagnose eye conditions
  • The main reasons for this are because optometrists have more time (according to 70 per cent of GPs and optoms), optometrists can dilate eyes for thorough examination (69 per cent agree) and because optometrists are more up to date on symptoms (68 per cent)
  • 99 per cent of GPs and optometrists agree that an increase in obesity and diabetes is likely to cause more eye problems in the future
  • More than three in five optometrists (63 per cent) feel that there is a serious absence of public knowledge around regular eye health
  • 65 per cent of optometrists think that the government and NHS could do more to promote eye health and regular eye tests

Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and medical broadcaster, says: “The 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 myopia – that 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.”

Leading ophthalmic surgeon, and medical director at Optegra, Dr Rob 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. For example, we learnt that one in five GPs is unaware that patients can have their long or short sight corrected at the same time a cataract is being removed, freeing them of glasses or contact lenses. This is despite the fact that one in three British adults will be affected by cataracts in their lifetime. As part of Optegra’s commitment to continuing professional development for the ophthalmic and healthcare community, we will continue to work with both GPs and optometrists to share best practice, and grow understanding of new technology and the range of treatments available to patients today.”

Optegra runs a series of educational events on each area of the eye to help raise awareness of latest research and treatments. It is also producing information booklets to assist with referral pathways, and where to direct patients in an emergency. Also as part of its professional development programme it provides a number of CET and CPD courses through healthcare trade media.

Optegra Eye Health Care will be launching its Vision of Britain tour in a number of major UK cities in January/February 2016 offering free eye health checks to the local community, and offering a free report on eye health. Further details on the roadshows and report are available at

*Optegra commissioned research with Censuswide in July 2015; online research with 2,016 adults aged 16 or over throughout the UK, 50 GPs and more than 50 optometrists