A NEW WAY OF TESTING; Opticians help diagnosis.
A REDCAR optometrist is among the first in the country to offer diabetes testing, following Teesside-based research which could change the face of healthcare.
Campbell &McDearmid Optometrists, on Station Road, has been offering a simple finger prick test during routine eye tests in a bid to identify people with diabetes.
The optician has been offering the quick and painless tests as part of a pilot study by Durham University's Woolfson Institute, in Stockton, which suggests earlier diagnosis could set people on the road to better management of the disease - the leading cause of blindness in working age people.
The idea of opticians providing more than a basic eye test could pave the way for other healthcare providers, such as dentists and chiropodists, to broaden their services. If opticians and other healthcare providers carry out the tests nationally, huge cost-savings could be achieved for the NHS.
Research fellow Jenny Howse, who has been working on the project for three years, said: "Because optometrists have a lot of training in diabetes, it seemed ideal to talk to people about it and see if there's anything else they can do to help in the diagnosis.
"You can tell a lot from the eyes. They show up signs of high blood pressure and diabetes and testing the eyes gives us the opportunity to provide health education and screening."
The pilot study, with James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, involved five high street optometry practices.
Patients who had one or more risk factors for diabetes, such as family history, being aged over 40, or being overweight, were offered a simple finger prick test to assess the blood glucose levels. Those with raised levels were advised to visit their GP for further investigations. Out of 1,000 tested, 32% were referred to GPs.
Optometrist Faye McDearmid, 24, jumped at the chance to take part in the study from her family-run Redcar practice.
Faye, who also works at James Cook University Hospital, said: "I read an email about the research and told my mum Angela, who runs the practice, "we should do this".
"The test takes about a minute and you get an instant result. There's more to eye care than an eye test and this is another way we can give the best care and advice."
FINGER PRICK: Optician Faye McDearmid tests a patient, watched by researcher Jenny Howse Picture by IAN McINTYRE