The impact of glaucoma referral refinement criteria on referral to, and first-visit discharge rates from, the hospital eye service: the Health Innovation & Education Cluster (HIEC) Glaucoma Pathways project

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To assess the impact of referral refinement criteria on the number of patients referred to, and first-visit discharges from, the Hospital Eye Service (HES) in relation to the National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE) Glaucoma Guidelines, Joint College Group Guidance (JCG) and the NICE commissioning guidance.


All low-risk (one risk factor: suspicious optic disc, abnormal visual field (VF), raised intra-ocular pressure (IOP) (22–28 mmHg) or IOP asymmetry (>5 mmHg) and high-risk (more than one risk factor, shallow anterior chamber or IOP >28 mmHg) referrals to the HES from 2006 to 2011 were analysed. Low-risk referrals were seen by Optometrists with a specialist interest in glaucoma and high-risk referrals were referred directly to the HES.


Two thousand nine hundred and twelve patient records were analysed. The highest Consultant first-visit discharge rates were for referrals based on IOP alone (45% for IOP 22–28 mmHg) and IOP asymmetry (53%), VF defect alone (46%) and for abnormal IOP and VF (54%). The lowest first-visit discharge rates were for referrals for suspicious optic disc (19%) and IOP >28 mmHg (22%). 73% of patients aged 65–80 and 60% of patients aged >80 who were referred by the OSI due to an IOP between 22–28 mmHg would have satisfied the JCG criteria for non-referral. For patients referred with an IOP >28 mmHg and an otherwise normal examination, adherence to the NICE commissioning guidance would have resulted in 6% fewer referrals. In 2010 this scheme reduced the number of patients attending the HES by 15%, which resulted in a saving of £16 258 (13%).


The results support that referrals for a raised IOP alone or in combination with an abnormal VF be classified as low-risk and undergo referral refinement. Adherence to the JCG and the NICE commissioning guidance as onward referral criteria for specialist optometrists in this referral refinement scheme would result in fewer referrals.

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