Diabetic eye screening: programme overview
An overview of the NHS diabetic eye screening (DES) programme, its services, and contact information.
Screening is the process of identifying people who appear healthy but may be at increased risk of a disease or condition.
The NHS diabetic eye screening (DES) programme is one of the young person and adult NHS population screening programmes.
Screening is different to diagnosis and there will always be some false positive and false negative results.
Evidence and recommendations
NHS DES Programme
This evidence shows that early identification and treatment of diabetic eye disease could reduce sight loss. The main treatment for diabetic retinopathy is laser surgery.
The eligible population for DES is all people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes aged 12 or over.
People already under the care of an ophthalmology specialist for the condition are not invited for screening.
The programme offers pregnant women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes additional tests because of the risk of developing retinopathy. Read the screening tests for you and your baby booklet to learn more about this risk.
Screening gives people with diabetes and their primary diabetes care providers information about very early changes in their eyes.
Early warnings allow people to take preventative action to stop serious retinopathy developing.
NHS Choices has further information about diabetes and eye screening.
The care pathway for diabetic eye screening provides a visual representation of the screening pathway and the evidence supporting it.
The DES failsafe mechanism sits alongside the care pathway to ensure there are no problems during the process.
Providing prompt care
Local DES providers must:
meet the requirements of the national service specification for diabetic eye screening
provide screening services in line with national policy and guidance documents
Diabetic retinopathy is among the most common causes of sight loss in the working age population.
The condition occurs when diabetes affects the small blood vessels in the retina. It may not cause symptoms until it is quite advanced.
All people with diabetes are at some risk of getting diabetic retinopathy.
Local screening programmes in England must follow national quality assurance standards to ensure their services are safe and effective.
Guidance on internal and external quality assurance is available for local programmes.
The Diabetic eye screening: use and transfer of patient information guidance explains the General practice to diabetic retinopathy screening (GP2DRS) system for automating the sharing of patient information between general practices and local diabetic eye screening programmes. It also explains how GP2DRS protects the personal information it uses.
The guidelines on handling patient information explain how to use and safeguard personal data in all screening programmes.
All staff who provide DES services must be properly trained and accredited. To register for a qualification, contact the diabetic retinopathy screening qualification team.
DES uses a City and Guilds accreditation package consisting of nine learning units.
These qualifications in diabetic retinopathy screening ensure that the screening workforce meets the competencies in the national occupational standards found on the DES continued professional development website.