Objective To determine the effectiveness of screening for visual impairment in people aged 75 or over as part of a multidimensional screening programme.
Design Cluster randomised trial.
Setting General practices in the United Kingdom participating in the MRC trial of assessment and management of older people in the community.
Participants 4340 people aged 75 years or over randomly sampled from 20 general practices, excluding people resident in hospitals or nursing homes.
Intervention Visual acuity testing and referral to eye services for people with visual impairment. Universal screening (assessment and visual acuity testing) was compared with targeted screening, in which only participants with a range of health related problems were offered an assessment that included acuity screening.
Main outcome measures Proportion of people with visual acuity less than 6/18 in either eye; mean composite score of 25 item version of the National Eye Institute visual function questionnaire.
Results Three to five years after screening, the relative risk of having visual acuity < 6/18 in either eye, comparing universal with targeted screening, was 1.07 (95% confidence interval 0.84 to 1.36; P = 0.58). The mean composite score of the visual function questionnaire was 85.6 in the targeted screening group and 86.0 in the universal group (difference 0.4, 95% confidence interval -1.7 to 2.5, P = 0.69).
Conclusions Including a vision screening component by a practice nurse in a pragmatic trial of multidimensional screening for older people did not lead to improved visual outcomes.