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People with diabetes still missing out on sight-saving screening

Diabetes UK warns today that almost a quarter of people with diabetes in England are at increased risk of losing their sight because they have not been screened using a digital camera to spot signs of retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in the UK’s working-age population.

The latest Department of Health figures show that 24.5 per cent of people with diabetes aged 12 and over did not receive retinal screening in the period July 2008 to June 2009. More than half (86 out of 152) of all primary care trusts (PCTs) are failing to meet national standards of annually screening 80 per cent of people with diabetes using a digital camera.

Screening for retinopathy

Retinal screening with a digital camera is used to spot signs of retinopathy, a diabetic complication that occurs when blood vessels in the retina of the eye become blocked, leaky or grow haphazardly. If left untreated, it can damage vision and ultimately lead to blindness.

Unacceptable lack of screening

“It is unacceptable that well over half a million people with diabetes have not had their eyes checked for retinopathy in the last year using a digital camera as part of a local screening programme," said Simon O’Neill, Director of Care, Information and Advocacy at Diabetes UK.

Blindness preventable for nine in 10 at risk

"Despite government targets, people with diabetes are still missing out on this vital part of their care. This must change, not least because blindness can be prevented in 90 per cent of those at risk if treatment is applied early and adequately, and people are supported to manage their diabetes well.

“PCTs need to ensure they are promoting and inviting all eligible people with diabetes for retinopathy screening, and provide a service that meets national quality standards as set by the National Screening Committee.

"In turn, we would urge people to make every effort to attend their appointment when invited. If they have problems attending they should talk to their healthcare team about what help and support is available.”

The bottom 10 PCTs for retinal screening

The table below shows the ten PCTs reported by the Department of Health to have screened the lowest percentage of their diabetes population in the period July 2008 to June 2009.

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