Calls for optical practices to conduct blood glucose tests on potentially diabetic eye patients have been backed by the Local Optical Committee Support Unit (LOCSU).
Researchers at Durham University last week claimed a simple finger prick test could be an extension to optometrists' current screening of people with known diabetes for eye disease.
LOCSU adviser Trevor Warburton said: 'A diabetes check which could be delivered in optical practices may be worth investigation as this study suggests, in the same way other services such as smoking cessation and blood pressure measurement.'
It followed a study by Durham University and The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, involving five high street practices.
Patients were asked a number of questions to identify any diabetes risk factors to find out if a random capillary blood glucose test was needed. Of the 1,002 patients tested by optical assistants, 32 per cent required referral to a GP.
Researchers said the results were proof high street practices were an 'under-utilised resource' in identifying diabetes.
Dr Jenny Howse from Durham University's School of Medicine and Health, said: 'In the UK, our initial results show screening for diabetes in opticians is a feasible option but we now need to look at the practicalities of delivering it, including liaison between opticians and GPs and the time costs for opticians.'
LOCSU has guidance for local optical committees to deliver eye care pathways for cataract, glaucoma and red eye enhanced services, in line with proposed commissioning changes within the NHS.
Redcar-based optometrist Faye McDearmid, who took part in the research, said: 'While patients are with us in the practice, it's a great opportunity to offer further health screening where appropriate.
'Although screening is something which could be offered by optometrists for the benefit of patients, it would require funding as an enhanced service which is currently not available.'