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Glaucoma test schemes launched

The NHS in Wales is to tackle the country's commonest form of blindness, glaucoma, by launching two six-month, £180,000 ophthalmic diagnostic treatment pilot schemes.

Optometrists will start conducting tests at Highlight Park GP surgery in Barry on 1 September 2009, and at the optometry practice in Llandeilo a few weeks later.

The trials will evaluate the feasibility of diagnosing and monitoring glaucoma in the community with the support of hospital consultants.

Says health minister Edwina Hart: "This will avoid unnecessary hospital outpatient visits. As the pilot develops, so will the clinical experience to provide an all-Wales service."

Richard Roberts, the Welsh government's chief optometric advisor, reports that 30,000 patients a year need long-term management for eye diseases such as glaucoma and ocular hypertension.

He estimates that 10,000 could be managed by one diagnostic unit, saying: "As Wales' population continues to get older, 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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Glaucoma Research Foundation