Piloting New Glaucoma Treatment

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New ways of diagnosing and treating patients with glaucoma will be piloted in two areas in Wales, Health Minister Edwina Hart announced today.

The ophthalmic diagnostic centre pilot will evaluate the feasibility of diagnosing and monitoring of glaucoma by optometrists working in the community, supported by hospital consultants. Subject to the outcome of the pilot, plans will be developed to roll it out across Wales.

A number of Optometrists at two centres will be selected to perform the diagnostic tests and Ophthalmologists will be available at hospital to view this information and data electronically and recommend treatment as required.

The pilot will begin at the Highlight Park GP surgery, Barry on 1 September and start at the optometry practice in Llandeilo a few weeks later and run for six months. The ?181,800 cost of the pilot will be funded by the Assembly Government.

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Mrs Hart said: "It is important that patients receive swift access to diagnosis to determine the best course of treatment. Initially, the pilot will provide the mechanism for patients with stable glaucoma or ocular hypertension to be followed up in the community, close to home.

"This will avoid unnecessary hospital outpatient visits. As the pilot develops, so will the clinical experience to provide an all Wales service to enhance glaucoma care to patients in Wales.

"The two new centres – one in a rural and one in an urban community – will help us to evaluate the feasibility of providing this services in the community rather than in hospitals. This will ultimately benefit patients as they will be able to receive the appropriate care and support closer to home."

Mr Richard Roberts, Chief Optometric Advisor to the Welsh Assembly Government, added: "Glaucoma and ocular hypertension currently account for the largest group of patients requiring regular, long-term management for eye disease accounting for more than 30,000 patients every year. It is estimated 10,000 could be managed within an ophthalmic diagnostic unit. It is also the commonest cause of irreversible, yet preventable, blindness in Wales.

"Glaucoma generally affects people as they get older, mainly people over 60. As Wales' population continues to get older, which is something that we should celebrate, there is an increasing likelihood that more people will require tests and treatment for glaucoma. It is therefore important we look at ways to increase capacity so that we will be able to meet this demand swiftly and effectively."

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