The English national screening programme for sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy

Objectives: The main objective of the national screening programme is to reduce the risk of sight loss among people with diabetes due to diabetic retinopathy (DR).

Methods: Offering two-field mydriatic digital photographic screening to all people with diabetes in England over the age of 12 years.

Stage of development: The programme is in its infancy, receiving the first year's annual reports from approximately 96 screening programmes, each of which have developed to offer screening to a minimum number of 12,000 people with diabetes, which would cover a population of 350,000 people with 3.4% diabetes prevalence. The national programme has commenced the External quality assurance (QA) programme in order to achieve and sustain the highest possible standards.

Potential benefits: England has a population of two million people with diabetes over the age of 12 and it is believed that there is a prevalence of blindness of 4200 and an annual incidence of blindness of 1280 people with diabetes. This programme has the potential to reduce the prevalence of blindness in England from 4200 people to 1000 people and a conservative estimate of reducing the annual incidence of DR blindness by one-third would save 427 people per annum from blindness. These figures are based on the UK certification of blindness but if World Health Organization (WHO) definitions are used the prevalence, incidence and potential reductions in blindness are much greater.

Scanlon P.H. The English national screening programme for sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy. J Med Screen. 2008;15(1):1-4.
doi: 10.1258/jms.2008.008015.