Blind World Magazine

United Kingdom.
Warning over diabetes eye checks.

June 15, 2005.
BBC News, Health (UK).

Most people with diabetes will develop retinopathy within 20 years of diagnosis.

More action is needed to ensure people with diabetes receive essential yearly eye checks, campaigners say.

By 2007, everyone with diabetes should be screened for retinopathy, an eye condition which causes blindness.

But a Diabetes UK survey found one in five had not been offered a check up in the last year and a quarter were not screened with the right equipment.

The claims came as Health Minister Rosie Winterton announced education programmes for people with diabetes.

Ms Winterton has also said retinopathy screening was a "key priority" for the government.

Everyone with type 1 diabetes and two thirds of those with type 2 will develop some degree of retinopathy - a problem with the circulatory system of the retina - within 20 years of diagnosis.

"As Diabetes UK acknowledge, diabetic retinopathy screening is a key priority for the government " Health Minister Rosie Winterton

More than 720,000 people with diabetes have the problem, although only 5% are blind or visually impaired.

Research shows that if it is treated early blindness can be prevented in 90% of cases.

The National Service Framework for diabetes said that by 2006 80% would be screened using a digital camera, rising to 100% the following year.

The survey of 1,000 people with diabetes found 21% were not screened in the last year and 25% had not had the checks carried out with a digital camera.


Diabetes UK chief executive Douglas Smallwood said the current situation was worrying.

"The Department of Health has already indicated retinopathy screening should be a priority and put resources into it so there is absolutely no excuse for a slow response on this issue.

"We have the targets, we have the guidelines on how screening should be undertaken and we have the funding.

"Now we need some action. Without it people will go blind."

The Diabetes UK report, to be launched in parliament on Wednesday, will call on the government and primary care trusts to ensure retinopathy screening programmes are introduced.

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said the government was working with the NHS to make sure the target is met.

"As Diabetes UK acknowledge, diabetic retinopathy screening is a key priority for the government.

"We are actively performance managing all strategic health authorities to ensure that this target is delivered."

Launching the education programme, she added: "Supporting patients to improve things like their blood glucose control, diet, exercise and psychological wellbeing through education is a crucial part of any good diabetes service."

Diabetes UK

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