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Diabetic Eye Screening Programme: coronavirus update


Diabetic eye screening recovery following lockdown

Prioritising patients at highest risk of developing sight threatening diabetic eye disease

To help the NHS respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, most local diabetic eye screening (DES) services were unable to provide screening appointments during lockdown. The NHS has been working to restore diabetic eye screening safely whilst considering social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements. This means that your local diabetic eye screening service may not be able to see as many people as they would normally as more time will be required between appointments to clean equipment, waiting areas and clinic spaces.

People at greater risk of sight loss are now being prioritised for screening, and those at very low risk of sight loss may have their appointment delayed. Please see our frequently asked questions (FAQs) for more information.

  • The NHS diabetic eye screening programme

    The aim of the NHS diabetic eye screening programme is to prevent sight loss in people with diabetes. Identifying diabetic eye disease (retinopathy) early means treatment is more effective, and damage to the eyes caused by diabetes can be reduced or prevented.

    Each local diabetic eye screening service will invite eligible people when they have first been diagnosed with diabetes for screening and continue to offer regular screening appointments. The time between appointments (screening interval) is determined by the level of diabetic retinopathy present at the last screen. Visit the NHS website for more information about diabetic retinopathy.

    Stages of retinopathy

    There are a number of different stages of diabetic retinopathy that the screening programme detects. Visit the NHS website diabetic retinopathy pages for more information about the stages of retinopathy.

Longer screening intervals for those at lowest risk of sight loss

If you attended your last invited screening appointment and there was no retinopathy detected, there is very little risk of you developing sight threatening disease before your next appointment.

To help local services restore diabetic eye screening safely, people who attended their last appointment and had no retinopathy will be invited for their next screening appointment at a longer interval than normal. The maximum time between appointments for this group of people will be two years, and research shows that this is safe.

This allows enough appointments to be available to screen people who are at higher risk of developing sight threatening retinopathy and will allow others to be screened when it is safe and clinically appropriate.

If you have waited for longer than two years, please contact us.

If you have any sudden problems or symptoms with your vision or eyes, please contact your local optician or GP for advice, or attend eye casualty.

  • Further information

    Further information regarding the safety and effectiveness of extending the screening interval for people with no retinopathy at their last attended screening appointment is available by visiting the following: