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Patients 'should syringe own ears'

By Nigel Praities

Practices could save nearly 200 consultations a year if patients were taught to clear their own ears using a bulb syringe, according to a general practice study.

The randomised trial in 237 patients – conducted in seven practices in North Hampshire – taught patients to clear their ear wax using a soft plastic bulb syringe and found a 50% drop in such consultations after two years.

The authors found overall around 3% of patients a year have their ears irrigated in practices and estimate in a typical 6,000 patient practice, around 180 procedures could be prevented by teaching patients how to use a bulb syringe.

Dr Richard Coppin, lead author and a GP in Overington, Basingstoke, presented the two-year follow-up results for the first time at the Society for Academic Primary Care meeting in St Andrews, Scotland, this month.

He said bulb syringes were commonly used by patients in other European countries and the UK had ‘medicalised' the problems of excess ear wax.

‘This is a way of giving patients more control over their treatment and will decrease the pressure on GPs to conduct this common task. When there is a swine flu pandemic going on, I think our time could be better used,' he said.

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