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PCTs failing to meet target on diabetic retinal screening

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Two thirds of PCTs in England are failing to meet a government target on retinal screening of diabetic patients, according to latest Department of Health figures.

The target to use a digital camera to test the eyes of 80% of patients with diabetes was set in 2003, to be met by PCTs by December 2007.

But according to government figures for the period January to December 2008, 100 out of 152 PCTs failed to meet the national standard.

Two of the worst offenders were North Yorkshire and York PCT, who only screened 20% of patients, and West Hertfordshire PCT who screened just 21%.

Retinal screening with a digital camera is used to spot signs of retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that occurs when blood vessels in the retina of the eye become blocked.

According to the charity Diabetes UK, if left untreated, retinopathy can damage vision and ultimately lead to blindness. They estimate that more than half a million people with diabetes risk losing their sight because they are not being screened in the right way.

Simon O’Neill, director of care, information and advocacy services at Diabetes UK, said: ‘If retinopathy is identified early enough, treated properly and people are supported to manage their diabetes well, blindness can be prevented in 90% of cases.

‘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,’ he added.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • These figures relate to our position in 2007/2008. Since then we have made huge improvements and 74% of our patients with diabetes in West Hertfordshire have received retinal screening, these figures are up until 31 March 09.

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  • Hi Dot, thanks for your feedback. The DH figures I quoted cover the period from January 2008 to December 2008. The information I received was that West Hertfordshire PCT only screened 21% of diabetic patients for retinopathy using a digital camera during this period. Is this correct? If it is, it is very impressive that the figure has gone up to 74% by the end of March 2009. If you would like to get in touch to let me know how you achieved this, or have any other comments, please feel free to email me. <br/>Best wishes,<br/>Clare Lomas

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