The EUscreen Study – Costs and Effectiveness of Two UK models of VA Screening

Costs and Effectiveness of Two Models of School-Entry Visual Acuity Screening in the UK Horwood,A, Lysons,D, Sandford,V, Richardson,G. . Strabismus (2021) Published online July 5th 2021

  • Comparing orthoptist managed and delivered school entry VA screening with service run by a neighbouring school nurse service in similar demographic populations and the same tests
  • Single VA screening at 4-5 years is low-cost with excellent outcomes, despite later referrals compared to earlier or more intensive screening
  • The orthoptist delivered service was more efficient and cost-effective, mainly due to careful training, audit, feedback and efficiency monitoring

View Paper

Cost effectiveness of different visual screening modalities cannot be calculated without long-term outcome data. This paper reports detailed outcomes from a gold-standard UK recommended orthoptist-delivered screening (ODS) at 4–5 years in school, compared to a neighboring school-nurse delivered screening (SNDS), both feeding into the same treatment pathway. The target condition was reduced visual acuity (VA) of worse than logMAR 0.2 in either eye.

Available records from screening databases and hospital records were analyzed, comparing the two services wherever possible.

More screening data was available from the ODS. ODS: 5706 screened, 3.5% referred. False positives 6.5%, PPV 91.4%, sensitivity 97.9%, and specificity 99.8% for reduced VA. Cost per child with reduced vision detected £195.22, and per amblyope detected £683.28. The mean treatment cost per child with reduced VA was £331.68 and for amblyopia treatment was £458.65.

SNDS: 5630 screened and 3.8% referred (plus some referrals to local optometrists lost to follow up). False positives 34%, PPV 53.2%, sensitivity and specificity estimated as 89.3% and 98.67%. Costs to secondary services of false positives were seven times greater. The cost per child with confirmed reduced vision seen at the hospital was 46% more; and per amblyope detected was 39% more.

Outcomes for treatment post referral in both groups were similar and excellent. 86% of genuine referrals improved to within normal limits with glasses alone. Of 221 genuine referrals with final outcome data, all now have better than 0.2logMAR acuity in the better eye and only two (0.9%) have residual amblyopia in one eye worse than 0.4logMAR.

About 14–18% of children with reduced VA would have passed AAPOS photoscreening referral criteria.

An orthoptist-delivered single VA screen at 4–5 years is highly cost effective with good outcomes. The main contributing factors to success appear to be training and experience in accurate VA testing, the opportunity to rescreen equivocal results, and monitoring, audit, and feedback of outcomes.