Exclusive: GPs more likely to recognise patients with Charles Bonnet syndrome after survey

The majority of GPs and health professionals are more likely to recognise a patient with Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS) after taking part in a survey undertaken by GP magazine for charity the Macular Society.

98% of respondents thought it would be helpful for patients with CBS to receive a diagnosis
98% of respondents thought it would be helpful for patients with CBS to receive a diagnosis

Of the 194 respondents to the survey which ran from November 2014 to January 2015, 69% said they would be more likely to recognise a patient as a result.

CBS is thought to affect between 10 and 60% of people with sight loss and causes people to see things that are not there, known as visual hallucinations. Up to 100,000 people in the UK may have negative outcomes from CBS that affects their daily lives.

Most GPs think CBS diagnosis helpful

A total of 74% of survey respondents thought the survey helpful in refreshing their memory about CBS. A total of 98% of respondents thought it would be helpful for patients with CBS to receive a diagnosis.

Talking about CBS with a GP can help patients to deal with it and 28% had done so. Just 17% had diagnosed a patient with CBS.

A total of 26% felt that they didn’t have somewhere to refer patients with the most extreme cases of CBS hallucinations, with only 5% actually referring in this way.

A total of 6% had referred a patient to information services such as the Macular Society helpline or specialist counsellors who know about CBS or ophthalmology. A total of 29% waited less than a month but 26% waited more than a year.

Average GP would only have one or two CBS patients

GP advisor and west London GP Dr Ravi Ramanathan said: ’CBS occurs in about 100,000 patients in the UK and about 60% of individuals who have serious sight loss may develop this condition.This is on the increase as serious sight loss is increasing with the increased incidence of type 2 diabetes.The condition can be very distressing to patients.

‘The survey revealed that just 17% of doctors had diagnosed the condition in patients.The condition is taught about in medical school and this illustrates the difficulty of applying the many myriad of conditions and syndromes taught at medical school to the patient in front of the us. Especially  when the condition is relatively infrequently encountered - the average GP would have one to two patients with CBS on their list.

Increased diagnosis could lead to clusters of CCGs commissioning specialist services

'The survey revealed that just by undertaking the survey 69% of doctors felt that they would have increased confidence in diagnosing this condition.The survey will definitely  increase the diagnosis of the condition.

‘The survey showed  there are not many specialists available for patients suffering from CBS, with only 5% of patients being referred on .The increased diagnosis could potentially lead to clusters of CCGs commissioning specialist services. Also it will empower GPs to give advice to patients on the management of the condition. Both of these would give reassurance and comfort to patients suffering from CBS.’

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